Rachel Cohn came to the cat by way of David Levithan. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares are up there with some of the coolest, hippest, and genuinely touching books in contemporary YA. However, it has become all too obvious now that Rachel Cohn is at her best when she’s collaborating with another writer/editor. Very LeFreak even seems too much a rehashing of the Cyd Charisse books, and the hipster-speak that seemed kinda cool in those books, now just feels as hollow and fake as the hipsters she’s describing… at the very least the language employed by Cohn here is a true reflection of the shallowness that is the character of Very LeFreak.
I may have fallen out of love with Rachel Cohn, because this book… not the first time I was majorly let down with what I’d hoped to be a fresh take on an old tale: addiction. In Very’s case the addiction is to “new technology”, you know the hipsters whose iPhones and iPads and whathaveyous are merely extensions of their otherwise meaningless bodies and no-original-thought brains? But by the time you actually get to the addiction part of the plot, readers have to spend about a 100 pages with the uber-obnoxious egomaniac that is Very LeFreak… And that is a tough 100 pages to get through, when *nothing* really happens, nothing but establishing Very as this unlikeable character (that, for one, is something Cohn has achieved: establishing her main character).
However, my main issues with this book are the plot and the dramatic structure, the minor characters (who basically serve no other purpose than to orbit around Very) and the convoluted language. I don’t care if a (main) character is “unlikable”. I mean, seriously what’s to like for instance about Bounce in Adam Rapp’s The Children and the Wolves? I do care about how that character is used in the plot of the book, in what way the other characters are developed (or not) and what their purpose is in the book, and the language and style used to make me, the reader, believe that what I read is true, honest, as genuine as can be.
As for the plot and its structure? The dramatic structure (and the pacing!) is cleverly hidden amidst Very’s abundance of mocca-frappa-cino-lattes . I already mentioned we get about a 100 pages of establishing Very as a character… then there’s the big intervention thing that makes her go into rehab, and then at the very end of it all there are things thrown into the plot so randomly, that it’s hard to think that a serious editor had a closer look at this book! The pacing here is so incredibly off!
And the language? What I’d once called witty and sharp, I can now only describe as annoying and too try-hard. Cohn has a tendency to write run-on sentences. You haven’t even hit page 2 and you’ve already had to stomach something like: “Hey, she wasn’t even bothered that yesterday she’d been fired from her work-study “security” job checking student IDs – a feat that, contrary to her university career services advisor, was not, like, impossible to pull off – yet Very probably could be counted on later today to blow the remaining credit on her maxed-out card for primary wants like new headphones rather than for secondary needs such as food and tuition.” Oh, I get what she’s saying, that’s not it. But imagine reading page after page after page after page of this type of sentence… oh, now I get it, *that* is where the plot was hiding!!! So these overly long and intricately plotted (Get it? Get it?) sentences just stand in the way of genuineness.
Rachel Cohn, get your butt in gear, find that great editor who brought out the best possible writer in you and be great again! And no, I don’t mean that lackluster uninspired dystopian ditty you’ve been working on!