Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Book Review: NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, by Carlene Bauer

Ok lambs/goats, it's time for another book review. I actually have a BUNCH of books that I need to review, but I'm going to lump those all together in a mega post for this weekend maybe (stay tuned) but I am reviewing this book for TLC Book Tours.

NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL (memoir) by Carlene Bauer

Not That Kind of Girl: A Memoir
Here is the book description:
Raised in evangelical churches that preached apocalypse now, Carlene Bauer grows up happy to oblige the God who presides over her New Jersey girlhood. But in high school and college, her intellectual and spiritual horizons widen, and she becomes skeptical of the judgmental God she's been given. Still, she finds it hard to let go of the ideals she's been raised with, and to rebel as she knows she should. She loves rock and roll, but politely declines offers of sex and drugs; she thinks the Bible and the Norton Anthology of American Literature are equally authoritative guides to life. Since there are no churches worshipping the Jesus Paul Westerberg sang about in "Can't Hardly Wait," and no tidy categories for those who are neither riot grrrls nor altar girls, she hovers between a hunger for the world and a suspicion of it. In her twenties, however, determined to make up for lost time, Bauer undertakes a belated and often comic coming-of-age in New York City. Between late blooming at parties and staying late at work, it seems that she might become as bold as she'd hoped to be—even if the late blooming is a little more hapless than highly erotic. And yet the city and its pleasures do not distract her from another hope: that she might learn how to have a faith that she can truly call her own. Enter the Catholic Church, and a conversion. But then she falls in love, and loses her religion—which leaves her wondering just what it means to be good. Sharply written, hilarious, and touching, Not That Kind of Girl is the story of one young woman's efforts to define worldliness, ambition, and love on her own terms—while believing in, among other things, The Smiths, Virginia Woolf, and the transformative power of New York City. Fellow restless seekers will find solace in Bauer's struggle to create meaning in the face of overwhelming doubt, and fall in love with the highly original voice at the center of this unforgettable debut.

And here's my take:
I want to be honest with you and tell you that despite the fact that I am not a religious person and to be totally frank with you- I think it's basically a bunch of hooey... I wanted to read this book badly. The description sounds fantastic, doesn't it? But I am nothing if not honest...I was really underwhelmed by the book.

First off, you know right away that Carlene is SMART. Like she's the super smart girl in class that has few friends, is socially awkward, but you just know is going to be doing something requiring brains. And she does. She's incredibly educated and just meant to be writing. So points for her for getting her career right the first time. But with that, she kicks herself in the foot. Which is my way of saying- if you are going to write a book, sometimes you have to dumb it down. Mostly because I was not happy with having to look up words. I'm not joking, I had SUCH a hard time reading this book because of how she structures paragraphs and uses words I have only maybe heard on national spelling bees. Yikes. (Fun secret- I love how she has no problem with admitting her love with Sylvia Plath. Ugh- if you haven't ever read The Bell Jar then you need to hustle to the library. Stunning piece of work. But I really love Sylvia Plath and like Carlene, am always braced for the looks you get when you admit that.)

With all of that out of the way- it's not a must read. I felt like she really didn't tell a story. Sure, she was confused about religion and how to abide by the constraints of how she was raised but still enjoy the college experience without permanently damming herself to Hell or purgatory or whatever. But seriously- figure it out. And stick with it. I don't know what the purpose of this book was because honestly? The back cover description was so deceiving. And I didn't find it hilarious. I didn't crack a smile through the whole thing.

But the parts I did find endearing? Were her relationships with guys. Now, you don't really ever know if she dated these guys. Plenty of guys were into her and she didn't know it and through the book you just want to shake her and say KISS HIM ALREADY but she doesn't. And then doesn't understand that pushing a guy away isn't really an invitation for him to kiss you. Which is true for a lot of young women, so if you are like that then you might relate better to this book than I did.

My thing with memoirs, which I love, is that I like to leave the book feeling like I am walking away with something to think about in my own life, or feel like I had connected with the author through their story. I don't feel that way with this one and that's a bummer because I wanted to really like this book. And I don't think this could be even construed as an attack on religion or Christianity at all- I think it is the normal plight with people who grow up thinking that maybe the things you grew up on are not how you want to live your life....then trying to reconcile that.

So while I didn't enjoy it, it doesn't mean that you won't. If you are a lost 20-something, this may be for you. If you are conflicted with the beliefs you grew up with and trying to make those fit with the lifestyle everyone around you has- this may be for you. If you've read this I would like to hear your take on it.


Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird said...

Eh... sounds like a pass for me. I need to work on those romance novels ;-)

The Insatiable Host said...

I don't think this one sounds like my type of vodka.
and I don't pass up on types of vodka.

anyhow, girl i hope you have a great's been a fucking long one!

I went shopping today and picked the lot and will send on saturday!!! woot woot!!


Sam said...

So I think i'm going to need to read this. Being raised in a private Christian school, to being thrown into public school for the end of high school, and realizing i'm a raging lesbian and being asked to leave the church because of it...definitely my cup of tea. :)

Heather J. @ TLC Books said...

I'm sorry this book didn't work for you - thanks for being a part of the tour and for sharing your thoughts though. Hopefully your next read will be a better fit. :)