Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Review: "Weeping Underwater Looks a Lot Like Laughter" by Michael J. White

Seventeen-year-old George Flynn and his family move to Des Moines, IA, just before the start of his junior year in high school. He finds it difficult to fit in but almost immediately falls for Emily Schell, a bewitching and mercurial aspiring actress who weaves her charms through the school. As George's unrequited crush on Emily grows stronger and he longs to move beyond friendship, he also falls under the spell of Emily's immensely precocious younger sister, Katie, who has multiple sclerosis. George's relationships with both Schell sisters greatly infuse the first half of the book, until tragedy strikes and everything goes awry. The second half of the book switches between flashbacks to George and Emily's high school and post-high school days, and George's mostly-unsatisfying adulthood.

I was intrigued by everything about this book—the title, Michael J. White's writing style, the way he developed his characters. But ultimately, I found it disappointing. First of all, I found Emily's character more annoying than intriguing, and I found George to be one of those characters who is always too afraid to say or do what they really want to. And once the book moved beyond high school, the story took too many circuitous routes to get to its conclusion. White is a very good writer; it's just the characters he created weren't nearly as appealing as they thought they were.

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