Saturday, December 19, 2009
A Girl Like Me
A Girl Like Me by Ni-Ni Simone
IQ "I used to think I was only one in the world like me and then I realized that there were a zillion mes...this is just my story." Elite pg. 1
Not the greatest line in the world, but this book has few and far between quotable lines. It does however, have some funny lines. Unfortunately, a few sentences below the IQ is this "I needed a new boo... [.....] pants saggin' and timbs draggin.' Ugh! Right after reading that sentence I wanted to put the book down, I can't stand guys who wear sagging pants or shoes that are way to big for them (I'm not even sure if that's what 'timbs draggin' means, but that's my guess. Too big shoes) and I did not want to read about someone who likes guys who dress like that. But I always try to finish a book and review it anyway, so I finished this one.
Let's start with what I disliked. Almost everything. The plot is pretty predictable. A girl (Elite) who can sing enters a contest to meet this really cute singer, Haneef. She wins and both Elite and Haneef feel the connection between them when they sing and hang out. But Elite is keeping secrets from Haneef; that her father is long gone, her mom does drugs and she has to take care of her four younger siblings. And Haneef seems to be getting awfully cozy with other famous female celebrities.
Honestly, I think I picked this book up (from the library, I almost bought it once, it was a good thing I didn't) because it has a picture of an African American girl front and center and that's so rare! It was nice to see. I also wanted to review my first "street lit" (I hope no one takes offense to this term, but I think it applies here based on my understanding of the word) book. I'm not sure if this book is just a bad example of the genre or all the books are like A Girl Like Me, but this book was not doing anything for me.
Another problem with the novel is half the time I had no idea as to what the characters were saying, they sounded ridiculous, cliched, and there were typos. I would say that I'm pretty up to date on slang that teenagers use today (since I am one) but I admit that I don't know all the words African American teens use, (since I go to a mostly-white school and live in almost all white neighborhood) so maybe that was part of my problem with the book and someone else may understand it and not find it as ridiculous as I did. In the author's defense, the dialogue I had a problem with was when Naja was speaking. Naja is Elite's best friend and she's not exactly the brightest of people. For example:
"I've been staring at the clock, for five hours and it's movin slow as hell. "
"Are the batteries dying?" Elite
"I think so, but the number on the left stays the same for like an hour. And I'm like 'Okay you wanna move?'" Naja pg. 3
My reaction was that's hilariously sad! Then Naja would say something like "Girl call that cat so I can check his chin like a four-hour short stay." What does that mean? Is she mixing up a phrase or is that an expression that I just don't know the meaning of? Also there were typos throughout the book in the dialogue, people would be talking to themselves or about themselves or just to the wrong person. It doesn't make the book too confused, because it's easy to figure out, but it makes for a very annoying read.
*ETA: Something else that really irked me was the description of the characters physical appearance. Brand names are constantly dropped, which is annoying (like Baby Phat, Phat Farm, bebe, etc.) Also the main character describes herself as pretty with "Asian eyes". What does that mean, what do Asian eyes look like? And the author is obsessed with describing people's eyes as "almond-shaped." She did it in A Girl Like Me and another book of hers (I read an excerpt of her two other books, included in A Girl Like Me). I thought that was interesting since I had just read Ah Yuan's Open Letter From A Very Annoyed Asian Reader, in which she talks about how tired she is of Asian characters being described as having "almond eyes." Me too, but in this book the characters were all Black with "almond-shaped eyes. Very interesting. Why almonds?
I loved the crazy characters. There are some really funny lines throughout the book, spoken either by Naja, a member of her family or Elite's siblings. Naja is crazy and so is her family. Her mom, Neecy is "the black version of Cyndi Lauper." Neecy is really nice though and she truly cares about her daughter and Elite. She helps Elite navigate through many tough situations. Naja's dad only says "Yup-Yup", "Word up" and "You gots to chill." Absolutely nothing else. The hands down best character though, is Naja's grandmother, Mom-Mom. Mom-Mom insists on being called Delicious "was senile, and told everybody she was a retired stripper. Oh, and she thought everybody on TV was real." She is the definition of crazy, "Yeah it's Mom-Mom's birthday. We take her to the movies once a year and it makes her think she's having a family reunion." However, even with how crazy Naja and her family is, Naja is such a good friend. She's amazingly slow but also touchingly loyal. She's ready to throw down for Elite. She doesn't always help Elite make the best of decisions, but she's always honest. Elite's siblings are also hilarious characters. She has four younger siblings, Ny'eem (15), Aniyah and Sydney (eight year old twins) and Mica (five years old). Mica sounds so adorable! He wears a sheet around his neck because he thinks he's Superman and he gets teased mercilessly by all his older siblings, except Elite. Aniyah treats him the worst, always making things up and causing him to cry.
'I dialed my house and Sydney answered. Mica was screaming in the background. "Syd, what is wrong with him?"
"Aniyah did it. He asked her was there (insert typo here, grr) really a Santa Claus and she told him no, Santa got capped last year. And the next thing I know, he's all tangled up in that Superman sheet he wears, having a nervous breakdown."
"Yeah, Mica." Aniyah shouted in the background. "Santa didn't get shot. He's in a halfway house."' I was laughing so hard at that exchange. How awful to tell your five year old brother that Santa got shot or that he is in a halfway house (a home for people trying to get off drugs, alcohol or who were just released from jail)! We later learn that the reason Mica always wears his Superman sheet is "because he thinks that Superman is the only one that can save you, and that's what he wants become-Superman!" The you his Mica's drug addicted mother and I thought that was so sweet, adorable and sad at the same time. There's some good character development in Elite's mom. Elite also has a boyfriend early on in the book named Jahaad and he's your predictable dog. He cheats on her, disrespects her and puts his hands on her. Why she stayed with that fool for as long as she did I still don't get. Their relationship is realistic since I know girls who stay with guys who treat them like dirt, but I think the author could have explained why Elite stayed with Jahaad a little better.
Recommended this book only to people who like "street lit" and may be better judges than I if this is good. Naja's family and Elite's siblings will keep you laughing and I would say they are the only redeemable parts of the story. The ending is predictable although how it's delivered is cute in a cliche sort of way. But between the language, the typos, the stereotypes, the cliches, it was just too much. My younger sister did like the book though. *Shrugs*