Liz Maccie Diversion Books Published 4th November 2014 Thank you to publisher and Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
I’ve never seen Stephen Chbosky blurb anything. Maybe he has and I just haven’t come across them. But when I saw his recommendation for Lessons I was encouraged by it and decided to request it on Netgalley. What I learned from this is just because I adore Stephen Chbosky’s book, that doesn’t mean we’re going to have the same reading tastes. I don’t know what else he likes to read, but we definitely don’t agree on this one.
Due to a series of misdemeanours and the influence of a bad friend at her local high school, Roberta Romano’s parents have pooled their resources to send their daughter to the elite Meadowbrook Academy where they hope she will get her act together. She does not want to go. Over the course of her first day, where she is surrounded by the kids of the wealthy, Roberta must handle her own insecurities about fitting in. Along the way she makes friends with Annie and Mervin, who each have their own problems. The whole story takes place over that first day.
I normally pride myself on my ability to sum up a novel in my own words. But I didn’t agree with the Goodreads synopsis and as I didn’t like this it’s hard to be objective. My summary does sum it up, I guess, but not well.
If I was the sort of person who DNF’d, this one would undoubtedly have ended up that way. Roberta was ungrateful and bratty and never appreciated the lengths her parents must have gone to for her to end up at that school. The school was one big cliché, as were all of the students. The perfect blondes, the enormous wealth, the girls who wear heels to school. It was a boring and unrealistic description. There was also Thaddeus, yes Thaddeus who she adores from first sight and then has a strange encounter with in the auditorium which leaves her in tears. There are Mervin and Annie, her first real friends with a multitude of problems each. There’s also mean teachers and jerky football players and secrets abound. But the main problem (other than the fact I couldn’t stand Roberta) is there was too much for one day.
Lots can happen in a day, I get that. But when you cram all the possible events and problems you can possibly think of into a novel that takes place in one day, it just feels rushed and unrealistic. There were also trains of thoughts or memories that came to Roberta over the day that weren’t relevant. I don’t like the dismissal of things you learn in the classroom as not being important, because no matter whether you like school or not there is a reason for it. And I really don’t feel that Roberta learned that much outside the classroom either. There were also events that I just didn’t believe, like that the maths teacher who took detention, after discovering Roberta was a maths prodigy (I wouldn’t have called her that, I would have just said she was smart), fell asleep? Really, just like that? How has he kept his job for so long when students can sneak out of detention so easy? The students themselves all had too many problems, all stacked on top of each other, and it felt like it was for narrative purposes, to make something meaningful out of the story, rather than because this was who the characters were. It felt forced. I didn’t believe it nor was I at any point invested in the characters.
This may have been a completely different novel had the events taken place over a couple of days or weeks. But there was too much revealed in a short time and it didn’t feel real or honest. I just didn’t like it and its only redeeming factor is that it was under two hundred pages so I didn’t have to suffer through it for too long.