Archive for January 12th, 2010

January 12, 2010

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn

It wasn’t the fact that Starbucks did not—would not—serve Guinness with a raw egg followed by an espresso chaser that was ruining Very’s hangover. Nor was Very concerned that she had stumbled into her campus Starbucks on the morning after an overnight “study session” with the beautiful engineering major from Ghana whose name eluded her, although Very knew there were many hard consonants involved. Hey, she wasn’t even bothered that yesterday she’d been fired from her work-study “security” job checking student IDs—a feat that, contrary to her university career services advisor, was not, like, impossible to pull off—yet Very probably could be counted on later today to blow the remaining credit on her maxed-out card for primary wants like new headphones rather than for secondary needs such as food and tuition.

I always enjoy Rachel Cohn’s books, but this one definitely had me scratching my head.

First of all, we have the back cover matter. Have I mentioned to you that I don’t READ the back cover of books anymore? It’s like this: back covers of books are for people who have a CHOICE in their reading manner. Book window shopping. Which is not a luxury I have anymore. So why waste time when you can just jump right in? Anyway, the back cover of Very LeFreak.

“Very LeFreak is a technology addict. She’s on her iPhone and laptop all day long. She goes to technology rehab to learn to listen to her heart instead of a machine.”

(that was a very sorry paraphrase)

So the book described seems kind of gimmicky. But I know Rachel Cohn. There’s got to be something more going on here.

And there is. Very isn’t just a tech addict – she’s a geek. She writes fanfic, programs code, and carries on online affairs. Her technology addiction is the impetus for the story’s plot, but she is multi-layered character who isn’t anything like the teenagers you think of, LoLing and texting and Facebooking their way through high school. Technology becomes an art in Very’s hands.

I find Cohn’s narration  so lively. The narration is a close third person, as if Very herself can’t disconnect long enough to think about her own story, preferring to have someone narrate it for her. I’m really getting into this kind of narration – third person that really embodies a focalizing character. But here’s where I get confused again – the narration is at times frenetic, almost indulgently so. It’s hard to follow the action. The tongue-in-cheek moments overwhelm. Maybe Cohn could have cut half of her color commentary out and made a shorter book. But then, these little distractions, these funny moments that nobody else thinks are funny, they are what makes Very’s reality. They do embody her character, and her mindset.

And then we’re back where we started. Is this a book about a complex character that could exist? Or is Very LeFreak ultimately, an exaggeration, even a polemic? Is this just a gimmicky novel that hopes all 16-year-olds whose fingers are constantly curled around their Blackberries read and take heed?
We’ll call it 50/50. Very LeFreak is equal parts deft, relevant satire and a complex story about a nuanced female character. If nothing else, it will make you think about something.