the blog of a librarian, book reviewer, and pop culture fiend
Friday, August 7, 2009
The Librarilly Blonde of the Joke
Q: Why are blonde jokes so short?
A: So brunettes can remember them.
Blonde is not just a hair color. It's an identity. Of course, not all blondes are the same, but there is a minor societal fascination with people with blonde hair. Evil people were easy to spot in Harry Potter. Why? Because they were blonde (Fleur Delacour being the exception, but let's not forget how much Ginny disliked her). Kiki Strike stood out in the crowd with her white-blonde hair. Katniss Everdeen is torn between two deserving men, one blond and one brunette. On a personal note, the question I am asked most often, and mostly in hair salons, is "Is that your natural hair color?" (Yes, it is. I am too cheap and lazy to color my hair.)
Given all of this, not reading The Blonde of the Joke by Bennett Madison (HarperCollins, August 2009) was not an option.
About the book: Val is a quiet social nobody until bold Francie Knight, teller of unfunny blonde jokes, blondes her way into Val's life. The two connect instantly, and Francie draws Val into her life of shoplifting and look-at-me clothes. Their goal at the mall is to steal everything and search for the Most Beautiful Thing, the Holy Grail of shoplifted objects. Despite all their time together, Francie always seems to hold Val at arm's length. She disappears for weeks without notice and has some crazy mood swings. Val worries, but she also has other things to worry about in her life, like her dying brother. As the school year progresses and Val and Francie steal more, Val sees that there's more to being the blonde of the relationship than just the color of her hair...which can easily be changed.
Why you'll love it: I'm going to start carrying a copy of this book everywhere I go for the sole purpose of being able to say, "You're wrong," when people (in bookstores, in libraries, online) complain that there's no YA of substance anywhere, and definitely no decent realistic fiction. The Blonde of the Joke is set in the real world but has a just-beyond-reality feeling, with very dark humor and some downright weird peripheral characters. The ways that Francie changes Val will have readers wondering how strong a person Val is on her own and what she's really looking for in all the things she steals from the mall. Val's dysfuctional relationships are heartbreaking, but also telling of the kind of person that she is: dissatisfied and soul-searching. The mall becomes not just a place for Val to steal, but a place to acquire things that can't be bought or stolen. This quirky story is one that will leave you thinking and guessing for days after you finish it.