shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


birthdays and pandas

Andrea Seigel wrote an excellent first novel -- LIKE THE RED PANDA -- that I just read on my trip (picked up off the Salon recommendation). (The only bright spot of the hell that was...) I'd intended to write about it today anyway and wonders never to cease being known, she has a blog. (Discovered via Chicha.) It's very good.

She sums up my feelings on birthdays, and why you have to make a big deal out of them, in this sad entry about a kid who was getting no love on his.

I started to explain to the birthday boy that birthdays are fantastic just because they carry with them the essence of being special. It's not the presents, but an aura that surrounds you, like when you have a cold and the world appears different and bent just for you. I meant it.

After a childhood of shitty birthdays, the legacy of being born in the summer and having terrible, mean friends, I decided to take things into my own hands and Gwenda-gras was born. Now I don't go for the full Courtney Love style blow out every year (or um, ever), but I could if I wanted to. I'd be entitled. And I hope you feel you're entitled to it, too. But enough about that.

Seigel's book tells the story of Stella Parrish, a high school senior fast approaching the end of the school year who decides to kill herself rather than go to Princeton or continue the charade of her daily existence. Here's what I liked best about LIKE THE RED PANDA: it never flinched.

The narrator Stella stares you in the face, doesn't get the joke when some boy calls her Diane Court, feels everything as intensely as every teenager, even detachment, and yet her emotions are particularly hers... The secondary characters are as heartbreakingly spot-on as Stella. There's a well-drawn relationship between two inseparable friends -- also on the cusp of graduation like Stella -- one who is beautiful and smart and the other who stays forever in her shadow. And is now sick of being in that shadow. It's with her that Stella finds the truest connection and the most achingly real moments of the book come -- this is the only person Stella really reaches out to.

The voice, Stella's voice and the writer's, never feel forced for a moment and are compelling right up to the show-stopping finish. Anyway, I could keep rambling, but it's impossible for me to say too much without giving away key plot elements. Suffice to say this book is worth your time even if you think it looks like a terribly depressing teenage wallow. It's not. Well, not in a bad way.

(Kidding, kidding: it's really not. Completely.)

worm "It's a Hit," Rilo Kiley (It's definitely a hook!)

namecheck Joe "Board Game Master" Sutliff Sanders


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