Saturday, September 25, 2010
Book Review: Waiting for You
Waiting for You (2009) Susane Colasanti
Back Jacket: At the beginning of her sophomore year, Marisa is ready for a fresh start, and hopefully her first real boyfriend. Could it be popular, dreamy Derek? Or geeky Nash, who just might have a crush on her? Then there's the underground, anonymous DJ, whose podcasts are the hottest thing at school and who seems to totally understand Marisa. But she doesn't know who he is...or does she?
Review: This was kind of an impulse buy, and impulse buys are notoriously mistakes. Happily, this one was not. I found Marisa to be likeable and real, and her desire to reinvent herself resonated with me as a reader. She says, "Can I just say that when you're hoping things will get better but they don't, it majorly sucks?" and adds, "Because when everyone expects you to be a certain way, it's really hard to escape that image. It's like once everyone decides who you are, you're locked into their version of you and that's it" (p. 13). What I liked so well about this book was that it moved quickly and it had a purpose--at the end of each chapter, I was aware that something had changed, even if it was only a small thing, or even if I wasn't aware exactly what had changed.
In addition, Marisa is grappling with an anxiety disorder as well as wondering how everyone else makes friends/is social so easily and why she is left struggling with the simplest things sometimes. So when Nash, an old childhood friend she reconnects with during a science class comes along, she is pleased with his company but reluctant when he starts to show an interest in her. Which is the other good thing about Marisa as a character: she has her flaws, like the kind that people don't really like to admit to other people. But she has a lot of revelations about herself and those around her that ring true: like, she admits that her reluctance about Nash has more to do with his clothes and his hair and less to do with who he actually is.
And then there's the anonymous DJ, Dirty Dirk. No one can figure out who he is, but he has lots of inside information about the highschool, rats out the people who deserve ratting out, and protects those who don't. His podcasts add a nice element, as the topics he covers move parallel to the events in Marisa's life and in some ways illustrate that this is not just Marisa's experience, but the human experience at large. The nature of his podcasts also bring up an interesting theme: one might hear "anonymous DJ with all the dirt on the school" and think of someone whose podcasts might be a little rebellious, sticking it to the Man, someone who is wryly flipping the proverbial bird. And Dirk's podcasts do a little of that, but he is far more concerned with creating community and a sense of safety, giving his listeners a space where they can ask questions they would not ask elsewhere. I think this was actually sort of a subversive move on Colasanti's part, to include a character actively working to establish this ethic of care: kindness, support, community. I don't feel like I genuinely see much of this in books--certainly between individual characters, the elements will be there--but not characters who actively, purposefully cultivate it on a larger scale.
Conclusion: This book deserves a 4/5. Colasanti's writing has a lot of understated intelligence, warmth, and grace. This book is thoughtful but lighthearted, and she does an excellent job of raising deeper issues while never directly saying, "MORAL OF THE STORY! MORAL OF THE STORY!" instead letting the themes and characters unfold and grow in organic ways.