Friday, May 25, 2012

Review >> The Disenchantments

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour -- February 16, 2012 -- Hardcover, 307 pages, Dutton Books (9780525422198)

"Bev says when she's onstage she feels the world holding its breath for her. She feels electric, louder than a thousand wailing sirens, more powerful than God."

Colby and his best friend Bev couldn't wait for high school to end so they could spend the summer touring the West coast with Bev's band, The Disenchantments, and traipsing around Europe after their farewell show. Just as the tour is about to kick off with fellow members Meg and Alexa, Bev announces to Colby that she is not going to Europe after all, and has decided to head off to college. Colby has spent his entire high school career waiting for this trip, all the while coping with his growing feelings for Bev. Now, he must reexamine his life and his relationship with Bev in order to figure out his own uncertain future.

The Disenchantments may not be the best musicians, but what they lack in musical talent they make up for in character. And of course, Colby thinks their god's gift to the earth and is completely and hopelessly in love with the lead singer and his best friend, Bev. The group decides to take one last trip before heading down their separate paths- Meg is going off to college, Alexa is finishing her last year in high school, and Colby and Bev have plans to take to the streets of Europe, enjoying a future-less existence in each other's company. That is, until Bev informs the group that she is ditching her plans with Colby in favor of college, and begins to slowly retreat into her own silent depression.

"When I close my eyes I picture Bev's small blue-walled room emptied of all of her stuff. Then I see mine, full of everything but her."

Colby has spend most of his young adult life completely smitten with his friend, Bev, but never finding himself in the position to really have a relationship, other than friendship, with her. Bev has always been a bit standoffish, and has flitted from person to person, with no desire to form any sort of lasting relationship. Her dream of traveling around Europe with Colby was only ever meant as a form of desperate escape, not to fulfill any sort of grandeur idea of a romantic retreat. Colby soon begins to realize that his once ideal future of life with Bev is now one person short, and he spends the duration of the road trip finding out how he can piece himself together again in order to repair his broken future.

"Maybe it doesn't matter, maybe if we all force ourselves to act like we're okay even if we're not, eventually things will get better."

Don't let the sunny cover fool you, The Disenchantments is as heartbreaking as it is inspiring. I was expecting an overly quirky and highly addictive tour of self-discovery, which is exactly what Nina LaCour delivers. The melancholy tone of the book initially had me thrown, but I began to realize the importance of this device in shaping how the characters view themselves and the world. Each person in the story copes with the transition to life outside of high school in their own way, and during each stop on their tour, they meet strangers who offer unique glimpses into how others cope with the hand they've been dealt. Each stranger serves as a fairy-tale-like character who offers our heroes advice or a quest which pave the road for self-discovery.

"There's something about distance, being removed from what's familiar, that lets things happen."

The fear of uncertainty is a universal human condition, so it's no surprise when we find our intrepid wanderer, Colby, having to abruptly come to terms with his own unwritten future. This is something that is not just relevant to young adults on the cusp of childhood and adulthood, but to anyone who as ever felt like a perpetual seeker. Each and every character in The Disenchantments has their flaws, their reasons for wanting freedom or escape, or the desire to create art in a world saturated with uninspired media, and I think these are feelings every person can get behind. The world may not be glamorous, easy to understand, or perfect, but we make the most of what we can by understanding ourselves, just like Bev, Alexa, and Meg. Maybe we're all a little bit disenchanted, but there's always the chance for a road trip.

"This will only be a song- I know that- but it matters to me somehow."

If you liked The Disenchantments, you might also like:

Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Janine Hoole
Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham
In Honor by Jessi Kirby

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