Thursday, August 4, 2011

Throwback Thursday: The Indigo Notebook

The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau 2009
Delacorte Press/Random House

Rating: 4.5/5

IQ "There are ties stronger than blood" pg. 81 Mamita Luz

15 year old Zeeta lives in a different country every year with her free-spirited mother Layla. Layla teaches ESL classes in the various countries and loves the wandering lifestyle; she quotes Rumi, dates starving artists and other guys with no solid future plans and lives in the moment. Zeeta keeps their little family together; she does the dishes, tries to encourage Layla to get to her classes on time, signs them up for first aid classes and is a very practical person. Layla loves the nomadic lifestyle, Zeeta dreams of settling down in suburban America with a Handsome Magazine Dad. This year Zeeta and her mother move to Ecuador (specifically Otavalo which is near the Andes) where Zeeta meets Wendell, an American teenager who wants to find his birth parents. Layla meets Jeff, who is Handsome Magazine Dad. Zeeta and Wendall are both about to learn that they need to be careful what they for and embrace what they have. Zeeta and Wendall's quest to find his parents leads them to an indigenous village, delicious bread, crystal caves, and venomous creatures and flowers.

This is a silly thing to dislike and I didn't dislike it per se but I genuinely did not understand the Rumi quotes. My confusion over what he was saying made me feel like a complete idiot but maybe in time I will understand better. For now I'm content just thinking that he writes vague poetry that celebrates nature, simplicity and individuality (and that might not even be right). I was bothered by the fact that the Layla storyline was really cliche, whimsical mother kept safe/protected by down-to-earth daughter who desperately wants her mother to change. I was hoping Layla would have a less abrupt change (ex: *spoiler highlight to read* What made the one accident in Ecuador lead Layla back to Jeff? Why didn't Layla do that when she had other close-calls and Zeeta begged her to go back to a 'normal' life?* End of spoiler*) and be a little less of a caricature.

This book left me with a serious case of wanderlust. It was hard for me at first to fathom how Zeeta could want to give up her traveling lifestyle with Layla. She spoke seven different languages and had already lived in fifteen different countries. I want to travel the world and speak at least four languages so badly, I'm envious of all those who get to travel and it's hard for me to understand people/characters who don't appreciate the immense opportunity they've been given to travel the world. The author did an excellent job of (almost) completely immersing me in the world of Otavalo (I do wish more Quichua and Spanish words had been thrown in). The hustle and bustle of the market, the loud, cajoling calls of the vendors to tourists with backpacks and water bottles, the dazzling crystal caves in a quiet village, every scene is described in glowing terms down to the most minut detail. Zeeta is the typical teenager in that she doesn't know exactly what she wants and often feels torn between two different sides. She is observant, meticulous and she has a cautiously adventurous spirit. I didn't think Zeeta was boringly practical because she was always willing to explore, she just wanted to know her mother had a financial nest egg for their future.

The Indigo Notebook excels in bringing to life the colors, sounds, smells and even the textures of Ecuador to readers who may never get the chance to visit the country. Not only does it provide more than a cursory glance at life in Ecuador but it opens the page to the larger world of Central American culture (obviously Latin American cultures are very diverse but there are some unifying/common elements). The 'treatment' of being bicultural/multiracial was rarely mentioned but when it was, it was handled deftly. Zeeta's mother is white but Layla doesn't remember what ethnicity her father was but it's clear he wasn't white (and that is why this is not an off-color review). Zeeta observes (and is somewhat irked) that the conversation between Layla and her new 'boy toy' will soon "take a turn to how 'mixed-race' kids always turn out beautiful-in the same way that mutts are tougher than purebreds-and then he'll ask, Where is her father from anyway?" (pg. 6). Through Wendall's avid search for his birth parents, Zeeta is able to live vicariously through him because she doesn't have a clue as to her father's name and where he might live. This is a tale that I was absolutely enamored with due to its fantastic setting of Ecuador, mostly unique characters and the fact that Ecuador did not overpower Zeeta and the other characters. The setting did not overtake the plot and/or the characters which is something that I think is quite important. Otavalo was a major character in and of itself but it wasn't more important than Zeeta, Wendall, and a few other characters. I can't wait to read the next book in the series, The Ruby Notebook!

Disclosure: From ze library

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