Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Review: White Lines by Jennifer Banash

Title: White Lines
Author: Jennifer Banash
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release date: April 4th 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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Seventeen-year-old Cat is living every teenager’s dream—she has her own apartment on New York’s Lower East Side and at night she’s club kid royalty, guarding the velvet rope at some of the hottest clubs in the city. The night with its crazy, frenetic, high-inducing energy—the pulsing beat of the music, the radiant, joyful people and those seductive white lines that can ease all pain—is when Cat truly lives. But her daytime, when her real life occurs, is more nightmare than dream. The sounds of the city grate against Cat’s nerves, she shrinks away from human touch, and can barely think the words “I love you” even when she feels them. Having spent years suffering her mother’s emotional and physical abuse, and abandoned by her father who’s found happiness in another woman, Cat is terrified and alone—unable to connect to anyone or anything. But then someone comes along who makes her want to stop escaping her life and actually live it, only she’ll need to summon the courage to confront her demons and take control of a life already spinning dangerously out of control. Both poignant and raw, White Lines is a gripping tale and the reader won’t want to look away. 
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I was really excited to read White Lines simply because it sounded different from any book I've read before. Cat sounded different from the standard shy, quiet contemporary YA MC. And even though I've read books on drug abuse before, none of them have been in this club-life context. White Lines did turn out to be different from the contemporary YA I usually read, and I did really enjoy the plot and idea. But sadly, I had some issues with the execution, which prevented me from loving White Lines as much as I'd hoped I would.

My favorite element of White Lines is definitely Cat. She obviously makes some bad decisions, but I found her easy to relate to and feel for. Her family situation is seriously messed up, and with what she's been through, I don't see how you wouldn't feel for her. Reading from her POV can be frustrating at times, with her horrible decision-making and the way she closes herself off from anyone that cares about her, but I found her downward spiral to be portrayed in a realistic and relatable way.

I also really loved the worldbuilding, if you can call it that. Even though we know it's causing problems for Cat, the world of exclusive clubs and drugs is intriguing and fascinating to read about. My only question is how they keep having these long, important conversations over the pounding music at the clubs they go to...

I had kind of mixed feelings about the secondary characters. My favorite character is probably Giovanni, Cat's best friend within the club scene: at first, he seems like the stereotypical gay best friend who just gives fashion advice, but we get more insights into his own life and issues later on. Sara, Cat's best friend outside the world of clubs, seemed kind of bland to me, to be honest; she seemed a little like a plot device, simply there because we needed someone to play the role of continuously telling Cat to stop messing up her life. Alexa, the popular girl that randomly befriends Cat and ends up getting sucked into the club scene as well, is an intriguing character, but I wish her own issues that are hinted at throughout the novel had been explored in some more depth. Julian, the love interest, is an interesting character, too, and I liked reading about his backstory. But I didn't think his relationship with Cat is quite strong enough to carry the plot.

Jennifer Banash's writing is very distinct, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. It's very descriptive and ornate, and there's times when her writing is beautiful and evokes just the right emotions. But at times, I felt like it was a little over-the-top: sometimes, the details of the descriptions distracted from the story a little bit. 

One of my main issues with White Lines is the pacing, which just seems off at times. Sometimes we get long descriptions of each scene, and at other times, the story will just randomly skip from one scene to another. This especially happens in the scenes set during the day, which might be intentional because most of Cat's life happens during the nighttime. But there are important scenes during the daytime as well, especially between Cat and Julian, that sometimes get cut short, which seems strange considering the romance is such a large part of Cat's recovery. Banash also uses a lot of backflashes to show what happened in Cat's past: most of these are interesting and important for the story, but they're included at kind of random times. During a conversation, there would just be a random backflash, which got kind of annoying and ripped you out of the story. I couldn't tell which parts of this were intentional, but the pacing just seemed a little off to me.

The ending was way too optimistic for me. Cat simply quits clubbing and cocaine, with no mention of addiction. Her issues with her mother aren't even mentioned anymore, while her relationship with her father is suddenly perfect. Similarly, Cat's romance with Julian is suddenly perfect, without really working through the issues they had earlier. The climax of the novel is well-done, but after that lowpoint in Cat's life, we don't really see the development or character growth she goes through; we more or less just get an epilogue of what happens after. Considering this resolution is kind of what the novel works towards, I found it very disappointing we didn't get to explore Cat's recovery in more depth.

Sorry this review is all over the place; I just have very mixed feelings about White Lines. I loved the idea, and I did enjoy Cat's character and her world but I had issues with the writing and execution, and especially with the ending. I do somewhat recommend White Lines for its originality, just lower your expectation a little when it comes to the technicalities.


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