Sunday, April 30, 2017

Book Review: "White Fur" by Jardine Libaire

What a crazy, terrific book! Being a child of the 1980s, and given the fact that's when this book takes place, nothing captures the essence of White Fur better than these lyrics from the song "Obsession" by Animotion:
You are an obsession
I cannot sleep
I am your possession
Unopened at your feet
There's no balance
No equality
Be still I will not accept defeat
I will have you
Yes, I will have you
I will find a way and I will have you
Like a butterfly
A wild butterfly
I will collect you and capture you
You are an obsession
You're my obsession
Who do you want me to be
To make you sleep with me
You are an obsession
You're my obsession
Who do you want me to be
To make you sleep with me
The moment Elise Perez sets her eyes on Jamey Hyde in their New Haven neighborhood, she knows she wants him. Although they live next door to each other, they couldn't be more different. Elise was raised in housing projects all over Connecticut—she never knew her father, and became familiar with a life of sex, drugs, violence, and neglect all too early. Jamey, on the other hand, is a blue-blooded child of privilege—scion of an influential banking family, heir to a fortune, and son of an unstable film actress. He finds Elise fascinating, sexually alluring, and yet can't figure out why he'd want her in his life.

"But Jamey doesn't want to know her for the same reason that—(his brain starts fuzzing up here, trying to save him from the thought he's about to think)—for the same reason a farmer isn't close to his animals—it's not supposed to last."

It starts out as purely sex—Jamey doesn't take Elise out on dates or invite her to parties or even over to his house, but Elise knows she has baited the hook and will ultimately reel him in. Elise wants more, wants it all, but it isn't because of Jamey's money or his social standing (which she doesn't really understand at first, anyway), it's because she wants everything—love, sex, companionship, the kind of relationship she's only seen on television and in movies.

"She's always been an outsider. She isn't clearly black or white or Puerto Rican, and the world where she grew up was easier if you were one thing or the other, or if you claimed one thing or the other, which she could have done but never did."

Jamey feels simultaneously drawn to Elise and repelled by his attraction and his growing feelings to her. He knows this isn't what is expected of him, not what he was raised to do, yet the more he realizes he cares for Elise as more than a source of constant sexual fulfillment, the more he becomes enamored of the way it will upset the apple cart of his social circle. He doesn't want anyone to judge him or their relationship, although he doesn't realize exactly how he's treating Elise at the same time. And then his family gets involved, and the whole game changes.

White Fur explores the age-old theme of dating outside your social strata, disobeying your family, and deciding to follow your heart instead of what you've been raised to do. This is a book about how love can change us in ways we want it to, and ways we hope it won't, and whether giving in to those feelings is surrender or the right thing to do. And beyond that, this is a story of whether a love which causes so much trouble is the right love or simply an act of rebellion.

Based on the way the book begins, I was expecting the story to unfold very differently than it did, but I loved the path that Jardine Libaire took her plot down. These characters were fascinating, frustrating, at times even a little repulsive, but I couldn't get enough of them. Even though there are elements you expect, the plot takes many different twists (one which I wasn't quite sure about), and you find yourself rooting for these two to last even if you're not sure whether they will.

Libaire was tremendously attentive to her book's 1980s vibe, and the grittiness of New York City, where much of the book takes place. This is a book that is a little raunchy, a little romantic, a little predictable, but you can't stop reading, because you wonder how the plot will be resolved. Just a surprising, terrific read.

NetGalley and Hogarth provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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