What’s with all the books about young people smoking? I remember when any depiction of teenagers or children smoking was considered sacrilegious and wholly responsible for the proliferation of young people using cigarettes. Now I’ve got characters smoking in Love & Other Carnivorous Plants and Gun Love and I just want to smack the cigarettes right out of their hands.
Okay, okay, not the point, especially when it comes to the aforementioned book about carnivorous love and/or plants. Author Florence Gonsalves offers much bigger things to worry about: binge drinking, eating disorders, drug dependencies, death, dropping out of Harvard med school, etc. There was more, which I’m forgetting. Probably not the best option for reading on vacation, even if narrator and main character Danny is amusing, sympathetic and entirely relatable.
Danny’s whole life has gone to hell in a handbasket. She’s fighting with her childhood best friend, suffering from eating disorders unknown, depressed and falling in love for the first time. With a girl. And she’s not too good at being forthcoming with anybody, but worst of all, she’s an expert at lying to herself.
Gonsalves walks a fine line between funny and manic. Danny is sly and sarcastic, even when it comes to dealing with her mental and physical health issues, but the author is careful not to trivialize these very real and troubling circumstances. She exposes, every so quickly and smoothly, how sometimes the things that hurt us sneak up on us and become habits before we realize.
“Bugg lights two cigarettes, one for her and one for me, then puts her arm around me.
“If you put that much pressure on yourself, you’re going to shit your pants.”
“I don’t wear pants,” I say, wondering when I started to like smoking cigarettes.”
There are also wide-eyed, hilarious insights. Even when Danny ends up in the hospital to have her stomach pumped—twice—her personality shines light on the world.
“The door opens and a nurse with a name tag that reads BILL comes in … Bill is probably in his sixties and he writes things on his electronic chart with his electronic pen in such an enthusiastic way that this couldn’t be his first career. Men like Bill are the reason people think this country is progressing.”
It’s an eviscerating observation, and not the only one to be found.