Andromeda Klein (by Frank Portman)

10 12 2012

Andromeda Klein

Frank Portman was the cat’s literary discovery of 2012. King Dork had so much going for it, one of those absurdly delicious books any 16-year-old with a knack for rebellion should read. Needless to say, when Andromeda Klein landed on the cat’s desk, she was giddy with anticipatory excitement. Little did she realize this would be the only book this year that she’d repeatedly put down, and wonder whether to continue at all…

But then guilt snuck in, this is Frank Portman, dudes! Inventor of characters nicknamed Chi-Mo! OK, so page 138, one more effort…another 100 pages, but if the dense writing about magick and occult swords and 93s and St. Steves and what have you, keeps on obscuring the plot (I’m sure it’s there somewhere!) and more importantly, the cat’s reading enjoyment, the cat is totally calling it quits… Frank Portman or no Frank Portman!

Enter page 415… OK, so there’s a Lexicon??? Dude, you might have said that in the beginning! OK, so I totally got that Andromeda’s hearing impairment took over at some parts of the book and those ‘misunderstandings’ are just another feature of her being one weird cookie, but still, all that occult babble, just sounded like “Bla Bla Bla, Bla Bla, Bla, Blab la blade blaba …“ after a night of insomnia to the cat. I mean, what to think of it when you get something like: “The other cards in the spread were mostly small cards, bristling with swords, though the King of Pentacles in the “hopes and fears” space might allude to – had always seemed to allude to – St. Steve, who was certainly a hope and a regret, if not exactly a fear. There he was, staring at her with A.E.’s sad eyes as Pixie had drawn them. It was hard to decide how to relate A.E.’s court cards to the Golden Dawn’s Book T attributions, but if A.E. Kings corresponded to the Golden Dawn’s Princes rather than to the Knights, then he was also, apparently, Emperor of the Gnomes.” (p.34) Huh??

So … Andromeda is one seriously weird chick. Not weird as in your average YA teen character “I’m a different geeky sort of outsider” weird but  “seriously alienated and nothing in common with the rest of the human population whatsoever in this universe or the next” weird. She doesn’t like any of the music her contemporaries listen to, but instead she’s into medieval troubadours and composers like Guillaume de Machaut. She is the kind of person who’d rather take “inventory of the room and imagining all the possible ways in which these objects could be used to commit suicide” (p.158), than strike up a meaningful conversation with you. She’s obsessed with occultism and now that her best friend – who wasn’t really her best friend – Daisy has died of leukemia, she struggles with her magick and sees weird omens everywhere (swords, dreams…) . Also, her tarot reading is just giving her all sorts of weedgie vibes.  To be honest, the story only starts to get interesting once Andromeda meets Byron who she more or less takes on as an apprentice. The problem here is that we’re almost on page 200 or so before the two of them meet, so it’s a whole ordeal to actually get to the good parts…

But once you’re there you can see that beneath that weird exterior Andromeda is … well, still weird, but in essence a very insecure little girl who doesn’t quite know how to get into contact with her peers, even though she would like to very much. She has formed these very tentative “friendships” with people like Rosalie van Genuchten (I seriously wonder how you’d pronounce that in English!), who – for all intents and purposes – is just a manipulative bitch.

Anyway, am I glad I did stick it out until the end… Mèh, I guess so. Didn’t want to be called weak or anything. Will Andromeda Klein make the best of 2012 list like King Dork? Never! Andromeda Klein is definitely different from any YA (or other) book you’re likely to read any time soon. It has one of the most bizarre main characters the cat’s encountered in a long time. Also, the writing is likely to be off-putting for a lot of readers. It’s almost impenetrable, which doesn’t really do all that much for the plot, which now gets even more obscured – as if the subject matter itself wasn’t enough already! A for effort for sure, but still… after King Dork, saying the cat was disappointed is the understatement of the year!

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