Book 20, a book published this year, Lucky You by Erika Carter
This novel focuses on the relationship between three young women who feels how many young women do—trapped in a life they do not want, yet they are unsure of what future they do want or how to get there. They are flaky, selfish, and experimenting with the world, trying on different roles to see what fits. It’s written very genuinely and yet, there’s something so off-putting about it—I think it’s because while most of us go through this experimental phase, we don’t want to reminisce about it. Witnessing one’s passage into adulthood is cringe-worthy. Remembering the stupid things we did and said while figuring out who we are can be unpleasant. I think this might by why I found this novel such a struggle. The writing was fine, but I disliked the characters so much I couldn’t dig in. Worst of all, none of them really changes or resolves their glaring issues, so I felt left at the end of the novel thinking, ‘why did I read this?’
Let’s take a look at the main characters, which may explain at least some of my reaction toward this novel. I bet if you know people like these girls, you have hopefully long since phased them out of your life by now.
We meet Chloe while she is on the verge of a mental breakdown, pulling out her hair by the roots and waiting for the showerheads to speak to her as they did to her schizophrenic mother. Unsatisfied with her own life, she begins encroaching upon the life of her friend and co-worker Ellie—following the band Ellie loved, hanging out with Ellie’s friends, and even dating Ellie’s ex-boyfriend. As Chloe digs deeper into Ellie’s life, her madness unravels further. It’s hard to like or dislike Chloe as she really seems not to have much personality, other than what she siphons off from those around her. You end feeling more sorry for her than anything else and hopeful that she will get some help for her issues.
Initially, Rachel seems the most functional of the three friends. She’s in love with burly, rugged Autry and living with him on his grandmother’s old farm. They are going “off the grid” in an attempt to heal themselves physically and mentally from the scars and toxicity of consumerism and greed and the fast-past modern world. However, at the end of the novel we see that Rachel is little better than her friends. She lives her life moving through a series of Rachels; she’ll fall into a new lifestyle (biker, tennis pro, hippie, etc) for a short time until she becomes bored or the situation becomes untenable. Then she will “shed her skin” and start anew–a brand new Rachel that sometimes contradicts directly with the ideology of the last Rachel she left behind. In essence, she’s a phony and an opportunist. She’s terrified to face herself and find out what she’s really like. Instead, she loses herself in the men she dates and takes on their personas as her own. Obviously, you can’t deny yourself and your true personality forever, so eventually she will leave the relationship and find someone new. The only redeeming quality about Rachel is that she’s aware of her pattern. At least she can acknowledge her flaw, she just doesn’t seem to concerned with overcoming it any time soon.
Flaky, self-destructive, alcoholic, and immature, Ellie is the least likable character in the novel. While they all have annoying qualities, Ellie’s seem to be the least redeeming. Every single action she takes is self-serving. It’s all calculated to manipulate others while appearing completely benign on the surface. When she can no longer control things, she engages in self-destructive behaviors—drinking too much, sleeping with men she doesn’t even like, putting herself in harm’s way. If things get too bad, she just disappears and starts a new life somewhere else without telling her friends. She is the ultimate self-centered person, which is what makes her so largely unlikable. The other two may be phony, but they do at least attempt to see outside of themselves at times. Ellie is always focused inward.
These three women come together on Autry’s farm where they spend a year on what he calls ‘the experiment,’ or living off-grid. As you can imagine, forcing these three delusional, selfish women to disengage from a world full of distractions behind which they can hide to a place where they are left to deal only with themselves and their inner beasts is going to be at the very least interesting to observe. Think of it as akin to watching really bad reality tv where the personalities on the show are saying one thing during the voice over, then the camera cuts to them doing literally the opposite thing they just said. You hate them, yet you watch. You love to hate them. In a way, it makes you feel better about your own choices. That’s what this novel is like. Entertaining for sure, but in a very uncomfortable way.