Grace wakes up in a white room, surrounded by whiteness: white paper, white clothes, white walls…, seemingly abducted by the mysterious Ethan. She doesn’t know how she ended up there or why. With nothing to do, she figures out that Ethan probably wants her to write down the life that led up to her being in the white room. This is the first-person narrative that Grace tells us, intertwined with the story of Ethan and Grace in the white room. Past and present entangled. The mystery of Ethan and the white room is what I expected to read, waiting to be unfolded by Grace. What I got was another story within the novel: the story of Everyteen Grace, a 17-year-old self-absorbed, self-destructive teenage girl. In many ways Grace is the stereotypical image of Every Teenage Girl, much in that she displays *all* the loathsome and fickle characteristics that teenage girls are prone to.
Entangled is – much like its title – not an easy one to “entangle” and as such the cat has some very mixed feelings about it. Without a doubt, this is a strong debut novel, but Grace, Entangled’s main character, really got on the cat’s nerves more than a few times. This is actually quite a bold move by Cat Clarke: make your protagonist in your debut novel not very likeable… Grace does everything wrong in the most self-destructive of ways: she gets drunk – totally wasted – a lot, she self-harms, she has a lot of casual sex (she’s only 17!)and to Not So Young Adults like the cat, it seems that Grace does not have any morality boundaries set for her (her mother is the absent type, and her father died a long time ago, so there are no real grownups in her life who can set the right example). This really made her into the most dislikeable of main characters the cat’s encountered in a long time. That is not to say that there are no characters who do walk the middle ground in Entangled. For this, there’s Sal, sensible, trustworthy, yet at the same time confused in her complicated life (of teenage pregnancy).
Cat Clarke definitely has a knack for the overly realistic in teenage land: the experiences of a teenage girl in love and the fact that nothing else seems to matter (Grace and Nat, the idolatry Grace has for Nat is extremely nauseating as it should be), the many (many) teenage issues that are touched upon (teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, self-harming, suicide attempts – is there anything that Grace and Sal don’t have to deal with??), all mixed with a bit of mystery (not that hard to figure out) make for a compelling read from the start… However, … yes, there’s a big however…. However, the cat must ask the question whether there really is something more to all this chicklit masked as an everyman’s tale of teenage trauma? I don’t know,… this is a debut novel. It’s fairly convincing, but can Cat Clarke do it again? The cat is not so sure. A while back the cat read another debut novel about a girl with some serious issues. At the end of that novel , the cat had no doubts whatsoever about the literary talent of the author. I still need to read that follow-up book (Delirium), but still… no doubts at the end of Before I Fall. But at the end of Entangled…maybe Cat Clarke has already burned all her ‘teenage topics’, maybe not. For her sake, I hope she proves the cat wrong.