Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review: Eating The Cheshire Cat by Helen Ellis


Eating The Cheshire Cat
by Helen Ellis

Release: February 13, 2001
Author Info: Website
Publisher: Scribner
Age Group: Young Adult/Adult
Source: Bought (Thrifted $.25)

"Eating the Cheshire Cat" lures us into a world of perfectly planned parties and steep social ladders, where traditional rites of passage take unpredictable and horrifying turns as three girls and their overbearing mothers collide. In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, beauty is as beauty does, with axes and knives and killer smiles. Sarina Summers and her mother will stop at nothing to have it all. Nicole Hicks harbors a fierce obsession with Sarina, which repeatedly undermines Mrs. Hicks's ambitious goals. Bitty Jack Carlson, a nice girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is caught in the crossfire but struggles to succeed outside the confines of this outrageous yet eerily familiar Southern community. It's survival of the fittest. Which girl will come out on top?

Covering everything from summer camp to the University of Alabama's Homecoming game, this fast-paced and unforgettable novel will keep readers guessing until the bitter end.

Warning: Mild Spoilers!

Apparently, the subject and style of this book is meant to be dark humour. Whereas I, didn't find it funny. At all.

I had almost no idea what I was walking into starting this book, if I had known, I wouldn't have ever picked it up. All I knew was the story was about three girls that unexpectedly cross paths throughout their lives, each time having more effect on them than the last.
There is so much more to it than that; webs of lies, deceit, trauma, mental illness, obsession, harassment, bullying.
I found this story in a simple phrase to sum up my opinion "Seriously messed up". This book was difficult for me to read, not the book it's self (under 300 pages, took me two sittings), but the issues and situations that were addressed and encountered; most of all, how they were dealt with.

This is a changing narrative book, between three characters; Sarina, Nicole, and Bitty Jack. Each section of the book, 3 total (Through the Looking Glass, Down the Rabbit Hole, and Off With Her Head), serve as a sort of time lapse and the level of seriousness as to what issues the girls have in their lives. (Starting with middle school, high school, and finally college which starts to look into their futures.) From kids, to teens, and finally "(young) adults".

Each time we meet the characters time has passed. Starting at 16 with Sarina, and flashing back to the age of 13, back to 16, from there ages start to blur and school is used as a sort of age gauge. 10 grade, first year of college, second year of college, occasionally playing catch-up to fill in some blanks. Finally the book ends around the 3rd year of college.

Sarina is always the #1 it girl. Miss Popular, Miss Cool, Miss Everyone-else-falls-in-line-behind-her.
Top of the food chain, perfect, perfect, perfect! Sadly only her image is perfect. (Of course) Her personal life is beyond messed up, always plotting, always scheming, always out to turn things into her favour. She will do what she has to, lie, cheat, and manipulate; for what she wants. She is pure evil, if you can even imagine.
But at the same time, I feel bad her, in a twisted way. Most of what she does and thinks, was taught. Thanks to her jaded mother and her failed marriage, and living her life for what she wants, regardless of who she hurts to get it, including herself
What she does, is all she knows. It's all about getting what she wants and living with the thrill of achieving the results, however short lived they might be.

Nicole is Sarina's #2, always. Nicole mother is beyond controlling, always pushing her to be the best, try harder, be better. To the point she completely smothers her daughter. To the point her daughter fails in most areas of her life just to prove her mother wrong. "Push me all you want, but I still control the outcome" even if it ultimately makes her more miserable.
Nicole is crazy about Sarina, while through most of the book it's unsure if she see Sarina as 'more than a friend' but over time the issue becomes addressed. Throughout most of the book, she just adore Sarina, to the point of obsession.
She wants nothing more than to be there for her. To be the one Sarina trusts with everything, to tell everything, to do everything with her. To have someone in her life that cares for her just the way she is, without trying to change or control her. That just wants her in their life.
Once again, in a twisted way, I feel bad for her as well.

Bitty Jack, the daughter from a low-income family in a small 'never heard of it' town. They live and work on a summer camp site where do to their work and living arrangements (able to live on site if they become care-takers of the place) Bitty Jack used to attend as a kid and eventually becomes a counselor during the summer season.
Out of all the girl Bitty Jack as the best grasp on reality and how to work for what you want, not cheat, lie, or steal to get it. Nothing has been handed to her. She understands you can only accomplish through hard work, and while life isn't always easy, it's better to go through it with a bright outlook and positive attitude.
However she sadly crosses paths with Sarina more than a few times, who continues to cause havoc on her life and threats to tear their lives apart. Over time there are negative changes and actions from Bitty Jack as a result of her not-so-easy life.

Each one of them is selfish to a fault. At the end of the day, out for themselves.
While this isn't true for Bitty Jack, life and situations sometimes force her into a corner, and she makes a few horrible decisions, more than once.

All in all this book is just... twisted. At the same time it's like a train-wreck, I couldn't stop reading it to see what would happen.

I can not recommend this book. I can't. I can't even tell you the level of "What the.." I have towards this book.
Which I apologize, is why the "review" is fairly short. (Although it's more like a detailed synopsis, I couldn't find much else to say or explain without entirely ruining the book.)

Recommend: Not recommended, unless you really enjoy what's apparently meant to be 'dark humour' and extreme teen social issues along with questionable mental state.