Monday, May 22, 2017

Marlena by Julie Buntin

A well-written first novel about two girls who find and then lose each other. Although this is a familiar plot, good girl meets bad girl who changes her life, Buntin makes it fresh and new. The setting is northern Michigan, in a bitterly cold and harshly poor small town. People there seem in a downward spiral, and drug and alcohol use are rampant. It's a dreary picture, and although we know right up front how things end (badly), Buntin carefully and patiently draws us through the story, flipping between Cat's adult, present day New York and her teenage past in Michigan. It's really shocking the kind of life her friend Marlena finds herself stuck in, but sadly it's probably not unusual. Drugs and poverty do battle with people's souls, and more times than not, the souls lose. Cat herself does not emerge unharmed, but by the end we can see how hard she's trying. Highly recommended for readers who don't mind darkness in their books. 

Kelly Currie

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