For her AP English summer essay assignment, Adrienne chooses to tell the story of the fateful book club her mother forces her to join. She gives a disclaimer to her teacher right up front, admitting that some parts are probably inappropriate. Her thesis statement is "Book clubs can kill you," and she goes on to say that someone connected with the book club will drown by the end.
"Reading THE UNBEARABLE BOOK CLUB FOR UNSINKABLE GIRLS is an absolute pleasure, with gems of descriptive prose embedded on nearly every page.... My advice: Don't miss this exceptional read."
Book references structure THE UNBEARABLE BOOK CLUB FOR UNSINKABLE GIRLS. Adrienne refers to books assigned by the club, and also starts each chapter with a hilarious yet apt definition of a novel element: "1. SETTING: The place where the author puts the characters. It's like setting a table, except that instead of using plates and silverware, you're using people." The story starts off with Adrienne lounging on a chair at the community pool (setting!) and reading a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper for the newly formed book club. Another member, CeeCee, who is beautiful and rich, and not friends with Adrienne, stops to commiserate with Adrienne about their terrible enforced club.
CeeCee is spoiled and unpredictable, and yet somehow immediately puts her finger on something that is near and dear to Adrienne's heart when she asks her, "Who are you supposed to be?" Adrienne doesn't have a good answer to that question, and it's destined to eat away at her the rest of the summer. Her break is not off to a good start. Thanks to a fractured kneecap, she couldn't go on the six-week canoe trip she had planned with her best friend. Speaking of the accident that messed up her leg, she says she imagines CeeCee has heard of it, since it happened at school. CeeCee says she knows nothing about Adrienne, who she describes as a blank Etch A Sketch or dry-erase board, again striking a vulnerability in Adrienne, who feels she possesses the personality of a fruit fly.
Adrienne points out the other two members of their book club. Jill is working at the pool snack bar; her mother also attends the yoga class in which Adrienne and CeeCee's mothers hatched the infamous book club notion. The fourth member is the inscrutable, scruffy and oddly animal-like Wallis, who somehow heard of the club and asked to join.
On the afternoon of the first book club meeting, Adrienne ponders CeeCee's questions and comments about her personality. She asks her mother to describe her daughter. Adrienne is amazed to hear even her own mother using descriptions such as "impressionable," "easy going" and "absentminded" --- all adjectives that seem to add up to bland, shapeless and average, as far as Adrienne can see.
Adrienne tries to explain to her mother that books are not made for groups of people the way movies are. Reading is an individual thing, and besides, CeeCee, Jill, Wallis and herself are too different to be in one club. In fact, she announces, when you force people to get together when they don't want to be together "bad things can happen" (which incidentally demonstrates foreshadowing, another of the novel elements Adrienne defines). As the first meeting begins and the members interact, an ominous uneasiness settles over the reader who keeps flipping pages to find out what it is that inevitably looms on the horizon.
Wry, self-deprecating and hilarious, Adrienne is a fully three-dimensional character, as are all the secondary characters --- with the possible exception of Wallis, who seems to have been purposely blurred by the mysteries of her life. The plot moves smartly along and manages to throw us unpredictable twists, along with a heaping helping of understated but heartfelt wisdom. Reading THE UNBEARABLE BOOK CLUB FOR UNSINKABLE GIRLS is an absolute pleasure, with gems of descriptive prose embedded on nearly every page. (Adrienne describes a friend leaving her this way: "She walked away, fading into the night like a blot of ink on a piece of dark paper.") My advice: Don't miss this exceptional read.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on June 27, 2012