Saturday, April 22, 2017

Diary of a Dancing Drama Queen by Louise Lintvelt

Rating: WARTY!

I've had mixed success with books by this author, but until this one the balance was slightly favoring the positive. This one brings down the batting average to a .500 I think.

This was a short novel aimed, it would seem, at middle grade readers (or even younger, based on the writing) but despite the youthful voice, it was written with a very adult tone and referenced a lot of things in which children in that age range probably have little or no interest at all even assuming they had knowledge of it.

The title indicates that dancing is going to be involved, and the main character is an extremely reluctant dancer - in that she has a really poor self-image and has no interest in disporting herself in such a manner, yet she mentions the TV show Dancing with the Stars as though she's really familiar with it, which begs the question: why would a kid who hates dancing be watching such a show in the first place? This was one of several things in this story which made little sense.

Clearly this book is heavily influenced by the author's own experiences either directly or vicariously, and it really doesn't work because of the age difference. The first problem is the constant whining. This kid is negative about everything, and she's especially down on herself. It really makes for a sorry story that's not at all a pleasure to read.

It would also help if the author knew what she was talking about. She mentions a 1973 Volkswagen bug car which belongs to the kid's mom, and says, "My dad says he spends more time fixing the thing than she does driving it. I can confirm this - I can think of more than one time when we got stuck on the side of the road with the hood in the air and steam hissing from the engine," but the Volkswagen was an air-cooled vehicle so there would be no steam hissing from anywhere - or if there was, then you have some serious issues with your vehicle!

Naturally a kid would not know this, and any kid reading this would likely not notice this, so I guess it’s a lot easier to get it wrong than to get it right unless you actually care about your writing. For me it was sloppy. It would have been just as easy to have mentioned a different vehicle, but again there's this anachronistic "hippie" vibe running through this story which doesn't sit well, because it reminds us once again we’re reading a story that wasn't written by the girl who claims to be telling it. Which twelve-year-old would say, "She has straight brown hair, cut into a perfect bob" or who would know the name of Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter? If there had been some prior suggestion that the kid watched the Marvel movies, then I could see her knowing who Paltrow is, but there wasn't, and I know Paltrow has made many other movies, but none of those seem like anything this kid would have seen.

On top of this there's the sexism in having the mom be the one with the cute car, yet unable to fix it, and the dad being the one with the sensible vehicle, and having to come to the rescue of the helpless maiden in distress. I had hoped we might have moved beyond this by now, but evidently this author has not. I quit this at less than halfway through even though it was only seventy-some pages because it simply wasn't appropriate, and it wasn't an entertaining read. I can’t recommend it, not for any age group.