Saturday, October 31, 2009
Review: Karma for Beginners
Author: Jessica Blank
Genre: Young Adult
Pub Date: August 2009, Hyperion
Hardcover, 305 pages
Book Source: The Book Report Network on behalf of Disney-Hyperion
Fourteen-year-old Tessa has never had a normal life. Her mother, a frustrated hippie with awful taste in men, has seen to that. But when her mom pulls her out of school to live at an ashram in the Catskills, Tessa goes from being a freak among normal people to being an outcast among freaks. Freaks who worship an orange robe-wearing guru. And while her mom is buzzing with spiritual energy, and finding a little too much favor with the guru, all Tessa feels are weird vibes.
Unless she’s with Colin, the gorgeous guy who fixes trucks for the ashram. The connection they share is the most spiritual thing Tessa has ever felt. But he’s older—like illegally older—and Tessa’s taking dangerous risks to spend time with him. Soon her life is blooming into a psychedelic web of secrets and lies and it’s clear that something’s about to give way. When it does, will she have anyone to hold on to? Will she even know herself?
Firstly, thank you to Nicole with The Book Report Network for sending me a copy of this book! Simply from reading the synopsis, I thought it sounded like an interesting premise and a promising story. Upon starting the book, I realized it was set in the 80's, which I also found to be a nice change from the modern setting that is usually depicted in stories lately. While I initially found the relationship between Tessa and her mother (and their move to an ashram) intriguing, ultimately the story fell flat for me.
I think the reason it didn't resonate is that I simply couldn't relate to the characters. I have never felt the way Tessa did, nor did I ever contemplate acting the way she did and making some of the decisions she chose. While this is supposed to be a young adult novel, I was really turned off by the amount of sex and drug use that was depicted. I guess it happens, but I have to admit if I had a 14-year old daughter, I would not want her reading this novel, nor do I really feel that is appropriate for anyone in that general age group. The first part of the story that focused on the move to the ashram and the effect it had on Tessa and her mother was certainly interesting, but the story started going downhill shortly thereafter.
The writing is generally solid, with my only complaint being the use of first person point of view. I seem to have become more sensitive to that lately and I really thought some of the phrases felt awkward simply because they were written in first-person. So, while I can appreciate that many people would probably enjoy Karma for Beginners, it did not work for me, nor would I feel comfortable recommending it to others.
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