Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Queen of Cool

The Queen Of Cool by Cecil Castellucci

The Plot: Libby is the Queen of Cool. She is so cool that she'll tape a pen to her shirt and by the rest of the day, everyone else has taped pens to their shirts. Except by then the cool kids aren't doing it. As you may imagine, someone who is now taping pens to her shirt is a little bit bored. But what's the Queen of Cool to do, when her life is perfect: she's popular, her parents are well off, she has the right clothes, the cute boyfriend.

Libby volunteers at the zoo. With geeks.

When Libby starts learning some truths about herself, cool kids, and geeks, will the girl who was brave enough to walk thru the school formal in her underwear be brave enough to risk not being the Queen of Cool?

The Good: This is so not your typical book about cool kids and those who envy them. Don't get me wrong; Libby is so cool that she would not have been my friend in high school. She would not have known my name in high school. (Tho Libby Brin and I have the same initials. And Libby is sometimes a nickname for Elizabeth. Weird, huh?)

Libby is so cool that she has stopped being able to feel anything:
Swisher has no singer. The music is like a physical attack. It moves from a delicate whisper of notes to a full throttled cacophony. I join the throng of people dancing in the pit. I want to lose myself in the music. I want to feel free. I want to feel something. I try to dance myself into a frenzy until sweat is pouring down my sides and my makeup feels like its running off my face. I close my eyes. I feel the same. Empty. Maybe I need a beer.

Libby volunteers at the zoo on impulse; she sticks with it because she's stubborn enough not to quit, and smart enough to recognize that she is beginning to feel again.

This isn't another one of those "cool people have feelings, too!" or "it's not easy being cool" books. Thank goodness. This is about someone who is cool but is also bored. What do you do when you want to feel something, anything? Libby is trying beer, and shopping, and sex, and dancing, and none of it is working. This book is about learning to feel again -- and doing something that is real, not something to create artificial feelings.

This book never lectures; it's not a message book; but it does have a message. About trying new things out. Being open to new experiences. Not judging. Not being jaded.

In here and in Boy Proof, Cecil (sorry for the informality but I kept spelling the last name wrong) creates a world and characters using the minimum number of words. My grandfather used to say he didn't like female authors because it took them too long to describe the sunset. And while that's not true, it is true that some authors think they need pages and pages to capture every color; others simply say "the sun set"; and then some, using only a handful of words, convey as much description and meaning as if they had used pages and pages. Cecil is the type of author who uses few words but tells so much. For example: "thinking of the energy anyone of these things would require makes me immediately want to lie down."

Also good: One of the characters is a little person. It's the type of diversity that often doesn't appear in books; or, when it does, it has Meaning or a Lesson. And while it's not ignored -- the girl's name is Tina, cruelly amended to Tiny by the cool people -- it's not The Point.

Libby's parents are involved yet not over involved, with their own lives; her father is experiencing a mini midlife crisis. It doesn't overwhelm Libby's story, but the father's story arc complements his daughter's.

Other stuff: The Cynsations Interview. The author's web page has neat information on Libby's LA (of course the Queen of Cool lives in LA! D'uh.). If you scroll down the Amazon page for the book, you see the "Amazon Connect" information. I haven't had a chance to look into this new feature, but it leads you to an Amazon author page.

I'm adding this to my Best Book of 2006.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Liz! I've added this to my "to read" list. And I agree that the Amazon Connect stuff is pretty cool. Good luck with your Amazon Associates experiment, too.

cecil castellucci said...

Someone pointed me here to read this and wowza! thank you for such an awesome review.

miss cecil