Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Review - Dismantling Evan by Venessa Kimball #ya #bullying #romance

 Blurb (from Goodreads): Life is unstable...
…What will be the trigger to dismantle it? 

When high school senior Evangeline "Evan" Phillips moves half way across the country with her parents to a quaint town in Texas, it should be a chance to start over.
It should be. 
Typical of Evan, she doesn’t share her parents’ optimism. Always the loner, she is prepared to hide behind work at the school newspaper until graduation. That is the seemingly bulletproof plan until she meets her new neighbors, Gavin and Brody Ferguson. 
The more Evan gets to know her neighbors, their band of friends, and frenemies, the more unsettling her new high school and community gets in Braxton Springs, Texas.
As Evan unwittingly digs deeper into the lives of those around her, her own skeletons begin to surface leaving her vulnerable and scrambling to keep her own sanity and reputation. Will Evan be able to get control over her spiraling secrets while discovering friendship and love for the first time?
Or will the issues and pressures of life as a band of not-so-average teens in a very typical high school become too much, resulting in the tragic dismantlement of an entire community and Evan herself? 
Dismantling Evan is a fresh and edgy work of literary fiction that snapshots how life as a teen in modern society can be unstable and the social issues and pressures revolving around them can tip the fleeting stability of society over the edge.

Purchase at Amazon

My review:

Dismantling Evan is a raw look at the realities of teenage life, cruel behavior toward anyone perceived as different or merely an easy target, as well as the tendencies of society to hide real difficulties or throw medication at a problem without truly understanding it.

Evan’s (Evangeline) family moved her from a difficult situation in San Francisco, where she’d broken down when peer pressure became too much. As well as having her see a psychiatrist and take anti-depressants, her parents thought a move to a smaller community would help Evan with a new start. Sadly, small towns are often the cruelest. Everyone knows everything and social bias builds through generations.

In this Texas town, Evan has to deal with her own depression (but is it really clinical?), her mom’s past reaction to similar issues and a generation of gossip and judgment. On top of that, she makes friends with the “wrong” people. One is a slightly disconnected, but brilliant boy that no one understands. Another is his hot brother that just can’t seem to get on the same page with Evan and her desire to help the brother although they are clearly attracted to each other. Another neighbor could have been quite popular until she turned on the snobs, so she’s also on the undesirable list.

This means that Evan has friends and slowly starts building normal relationships, but still, below that lies possible clinical depression or signs of polar disorder. Or is it just normal teenage desire not to be controlled by parent who are naturally suspicious of her behavior or the friends she’s made. Friends that the social ladder tells her parents just aren’t the best examples.

One thing I appreciated in the book is that it is never 100% clear if Evan needs drugs more than just a stable environment with accepting friends. The drugs seem to help in some ways, but the relationships she develops could have been a bigger influence on her confidence to stand up to schoolroom cruelty.

And in the end, that really doesn’t matter. That’s just Evan’s personal battle, which helps her take on a bigger battle. Real cruelty to anyone different and unable to defend themselves. Because what kids (and adults) need to learn is that those identified as weak have a breaking point. And the solution can be those events that make the evening news and twitter feeds fly.

Dismantling Evan covers great subject matter in a real and personal way. For that, the book is well worth reading. From a technical aspect, the writing could be cleaner, smoother, less telling, more showing. But that’s the editor in me and shouldn’t prevent most readers from enjoying the book and hopefully taking some bit of it into their own lives, whether to change their own behavior or take a stand when we see others being attacked.

I give this 3.5 stars – recommended. (On my scale, a book must be near perfect to receive a 5, this book would have been a solid 4 but for the writing nits.) I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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