Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky

Title: And Then Things Fall Apart
Author: Arlaina Tibensky
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Simon Pulse
ARC, 227 pages
Date Published: July 26, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads):
Keek is not having a good summer. She and her boyfriend have just had their Worst Fight Ever (on the subject of her virginity, nonetheless), she’s been betrayed by a best friend, her parents are splitting up, and her mother is on the other side of the country tending to Keek’s newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. Oh, and Keek’s holed up at her grandmother’s technology-barren house with an abysmal case of the chicken pox. In Keek’s words, “Sofa king annoying.”

With her world collapsing around her, Keek’s only solace comes from rereading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and typing on an old electric typewriter. Keek—whose snappy narrative voice is darkly humorous and hysterically blunt—must ultimately decide for herself which relationships to salvage, which to set free, and what it means to fall in love.

And Then Things Fall Apart is so far from what I thought it was going to be, but fantastic all the same. As depressing as it may sound for Keek to be stranded at her Gram’s house, with chicken pox –
like the flu, but with infectious and hideous wounds that itch like fire-breathing ants all over your body and could scar you for life if treated improperly. ~ pg. 8
– alone with her thoughts, her Gram’s old typewriter, and her cheating father living in the basement, it’s not. Keek’s life is in the process of a very fast disintegration and all she can do is watch, write, and relate to Sylvia Plath’s, The Bell Jar, but somehow, And Then Things Fall Apart is anything but depressing.

Keek ‘s brain is befuddled with fever, she’s angry at her parents, at her truth-withholding, now ignoring her boyfriend, but has enough wits about her to be hilariously cynical. She relates almost everything back to Plath and The Bell Jar and depression, but does so with a flair of humor. She’s lonely and disregarded and itchy and everything a 15 year old, only child of soon-to-be divorced parents should be.

But then she’s so much more. Keek is one of most well-developed and intelligent teen characters I’ve ever read. Not only is she all the things I said before, but she’s reasonable even when no one would expect her to be. Keek’s life isn’t easy, at least not at the moment, but she works through it. Can she be a bit melodramatic? Absolutely. But she knows that. She sees her own flaws and is upset about them, but doesn’t allow it to hold her down. She doesn’t even allow the broken trust and the broken family she now has to put her into a depression.

In typing her chicken pox filled summer days away, Keek deals with her issues. And the reader will get to meet a realistic, albeit very snarky and sassy, girl with actual issues that are easy to relate to. She loves her parents, loves her Gran, loves her boyfriend, loves her best friend, but also loves herself. Arlaina Tibensky infuses Keek with personality and makes her, not only her own, but the readers as well. We meet and know her family, experience her anger, her losses, her betrayals, and her joys almost firsthand.

And Then Things Fall Apart is a touching and comedic debut. Tibensky’s writing has a certain quirk to it that makes it compulsively readable and impossible to put down. The blunt humor had me reeling with laughter, while Keek’s internal turmoil and emotional conflicts add heart. Being in Keek’s mind is an unrestrained combination of parental shame, lusty thoughts, bouts of depression, and a whirlwind of every other emotion. Tibensky has instantly become an author to watch for and I’ll be picking up anything and everything she puts out there.

Opening line: I once watched a collector kill a monarch butterfly on a nature show by putting it under a glass dome with a piece of cotton soaked in gasoline. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages (There's this passage where Keek talks about virginity and mentions CNN and concerned parents, then relates the big v-card to Zeus and damsels and King Arthur. It's amazing and you should pick the book up to read it, because it is too long to include here): You know the saying, “It’s darkest before the dawn,” right? Well, for me it was as bright as the freaking sun before the meteor hit.
     I was ablaze with happiness.
     And then things fall apart. ~ pg. 75
And another one:
You can only go so long saying to yourself, “This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening,” before you just have to stop saying it, hold still, and let it sink in. ~ pg. 174

*This is the ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy  
 *This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Arlaina Tibensky online:

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YA Book Queen said...

This book does sound really touching and amusing. Keek sounds like a great character!

Wonderful review, Nikki! :)

BrittLit said...

I'm so glad you loved this it was so amazing! I love that part where Keek is talking about Virginity and King Arthur. Great review "Being in Keek’s mind is an unrestrained combination of parental shame, lusty thoughts, bouts of depression, and a whirlwind of every other emotion. " Awesome!

Candace said...

This sounds like such a great book! I saw it on someones IMM yesterday and they had said they loved it so that got me interested but your review has me REALLY interested! I'll definitely have to read it one day!

Chrisbails said...

This book looks great and would love to check it out.

Emily a.k.a WilowRaven : ) said...

Ok, I'm adding this one to my wishlist. I wasn't so sure about it but if you liked it so much, I want to give it a try.

Although, Keek? Really? Is it short for something?

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