The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher is a young adult novel. When Adrienne’s mother meets CeeCee’s mother, the mothers decide to create a mother-daughter book club. The two girls are joined by Jill and Wallis. Through Adrienne’s first-person point-of-view, we meet each of the girls, each falling into a cliché personae. Adrienne is the misfit who misses her athletic best friend. CeeCee is the privileged rich girl who is suffering the book group as a form of punishment. Jill is the adopted Asian daughter of non-Asian parents who encourage her studying for the PSAT, selling snacks at the local swimming pool, and all the usual Asian tropes. Wallis is the enigmatic weirdo, younger than the others because she’s been skipped a couple of grades. Even her mother is a mystery, not coming to the book group meetings.
Together, the mothers and daughters read several classic novels, including The Yellow Wallpaper, The Left Hand of Darkness, Frankenstein, The House on Mango Street, and The Awakening. Of course, CeeCee can’t be bothered to do the reading and she manipulates Adrienne who is missing a summer she had planned to spend with her best friend until she hurt her knee. Adrienne’s essay begins by stating that “book clubs can kill you” and states that someone will drown by the novel’s end. It is almost immediately obvious who will drown, once all of the necessary characters enter the story. So the big “aha” moment at the end is practically splashed across the page in neon lights.
To quote directly from the novel:
“The ending of a good book, I had always thought—at least, a book that sticks with you—should be satisfying but also sad. A character should die, or almost die, and the people left behind should see things differently. They should change.” (218)
I agree. Too bad the author seemed to know this and then decided not to write a good book, one that will stick with you. Each and every character remains precisely who and what they were on page one—insecure, narcissistic, superior, and weird.
I didn’t dislike it altogether. I thought that Adrienne’s explanation of literary terms was amusing and Schumacher does a good job of introducing each term as it relates to the narrative of the novel itself. Also, there are many literary allusions which could make this a potentially interesting book. Nonetheless, I found it predictable and mostly banal.
Also, I know I should never judge a final publication by its Advanced Reader's Copy but, having just read two young adult ARCs in a row, I have to say that I hope the publisher of this novel will clean up what becomes a confusing and muddled mess towards the end. Already frustrated by the obvious tropes throughout the novel, it was all the more annoying to have to reread sentences because of dropped words, misplaced punctuation, etc. So my fingers are crossed that the publishers will go through the novel with a fine-tooth comb. It really needs a lot more attention than most ARCs I read.