My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A friend recommended this and I am so glad she did. I’m not a huge fan of contemporary fiction but Karen’s story is engaging. Set in the 60s in Chicago’s less well to do areas, it centers on Karen a young girl who’s an outsider at her Catholic school, being part Hispanic and Native American (at one point one of the adults takes the priests and funeral directors to task being willing to bury the Spaghetti and Cabbage Catholics but not the Burrito kind, so yes there are some politically incorrect but time period correct terminology in here). Not only that she’s a budding lesbian. She sees herself (and draws herself) as a 1930s style werewolf in a PI’s trench coat and hat (as she is trying to solve a mystery). She lives with her mother and her brother, Deeze (who looks very much like his Mexican father which hampers his job opportunities in the 60s) in a basement.
The upstairs neighbor is found dead, shot in the chest but Karen doesn’t believe Anka has killed herself like the cops did and begins to start looking into her life with the help of Anka’s husband who has recordings Anka made for an interviewer. Anka had a miserable life as a young Jewish woman during the rise of Hitler. (if she was killed, I’m assuming it has to do with a war criminal but that’s a reveal for another book).
In the midst of this there are secrets of Karen’s own family, especially Deeze, and other issues. There is Karen’s friend who has joined the mean girls. They both loved monsters, Dracula and the Wolfman specifically but now her friend (who is wealthier) has drifted away. The only other friends she has is a young girl from Kentucky who looks starved (honestly I think she’s a ghost) and a tall, scar-faced African American boy who saved her from bully-rapists (and is also gay or so it seems which might account for the damage done to him).
None of the storylines are wrapped up (except one but it opens up a new one at the end). But I’d happily follow the next one volume.
But the story isn’t why we’re here entirely. It’s for the art. It is outstanding. You can’t learn anything about it reading my review. You need to get this book and see. It’s done to look like a tween girl’s college lined notebook. Some of it is achingly beautiful, some weird and sketchy. There are so many styles of art in this and art is the heart of the book. Karen is an artist and so is Deeze. Their bonding moments are in the art museums which they both love. And that’s about all we know about Deeze which bothered me a bit. He’s an adult (considerably older than Karen) but he doesn’t appear to have a job and is in danger of being sent to Viet Nam. That quibble aside, this was fantastic and well worth your time. But even at over 400 pages we only have part of the story (and I’m not sure how many volumes are planned). I can’t wait to read the next volume.
View all my reviews