Friday, September 24, 2010

REVIEW: Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood

Cook, E.  (2010).  Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood.  New York:  Simon Pulse.

261 pages.

Appetizer:  Helen and Lauren were best friends.  That is until the end of eighth grade, when Lauren betrayed Helen to launch her own plan to become the most popular girl in their grade.  Left behind and bullied by the entire eighth grade class, Helen is lucky when her family has to move to New York for her ninth grade year.

But not a day goes by that Helen doesn't think about their lost friendship and Lauren's betrayal.  So, when Helen learns that she may have to move back to Terrace, Michigan to live with her grandmother for her senior year, she concocts a plan to finally get the revenge she has been craving.

Helen (who'd lost some weight and had suffered through a broken nose, both altering her appearance) returns to Michigan and begins going by the name Claire, working to become popular so she can better destroy Lauren's perfect life.

The premise has the potential to be a little confusing unless you're reading the book, so here's the book trailer.  I find the music and sound effects strangely hypnotizing:

Like if I ever go to a dance club again, this is the music I want to hear.  And whenever I hear one of the sound effects, I will pause my awkward dancing in some strange new position:


"What? Umm, I don't know."


Also, it's been brought to my attention, that if you just can't get enough of that mean manipulative Lauren Wood, you can now get popularity tips from her on YouTube:

I will obviously be following her advice.

But enough youtube fun for now.

As I was reading Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, I was strongly reminded of the movie Mean Girls.  The premise is very similar, with an outsider coming in, gaining popularity to destroy a mean girl, using people and potentially losing sight of who they are and why they did what they did.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

I'd even say the execution of Mean Girls is better, mostly because of my main problem with Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood:  Helen/Claire's characterization.

So, even after Helen/Claire leaves the state, she can't let go of what Lauren did to her.  She remains an outsider at her new New York school and stalks Lauren through Facebook.  Then, when she moves back to Michigan, with only a bit of research and after spending hours thinking about what makes a person popular and making a popularity scale, she is suddenly an expert on popularity, clothes, designers, hairstyles, etc.  She returns and is suddenly the queen of manipulation, with only the occasional pang of guilt.

But, no.  No, no, no, no.  Her parents couldn't be scientists.  Because that's part of the premise of Mean Girls (zoologists).

Damn, I'm gonna go watch Mean Girls.

(I watched it a record four times while reading through this book)

I had a lot of trouble with Helen/Claire's sudden and complete understandings of the high school and fashion worlds.  I needed a reason to believe that Helen/Claire could somehow gain all this knowledge into how to analyze groups of people and their behavior.  I found myself wishing her parents were anthropologists instead of hippies.  Then I could suspend my disbelief.

Plus, when Helen/Claire's character evolves, I didn't quite understand what was triggering those changes either.  

I also had trouble with this book because of how stalkery Helen/Claire is.  It doesn't end with facebook.  Once she's back in town, Helen/Claire's antics involve sabotaging Lauren's possessions and breaking into her house.


I hadn't planned to have to drag out my stalker scale so often.  But I'm quickly learning the difficult lesson that stalkers are EVERYWHERE in YA literature.

Because of the stalker elements and my trouble believing Helen/Claire's characterization, I was left feeling that Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood was pretty so-so.  Having said that though, I can see how the book provides some happy escapism for teen girls who weren't popular or who were bullied.

Also, Eileen Cook and I have something in common:  We both graduated from Michigan State.

Go green!  Go white!  Or whatever.

I wasn't there because I was a sports fan.  (Although taking pictures of the riots after games was a surprising good time.  And now I can say, "Yes, yes, I have been tear gassed."  Thank you, MSU!)

Dinner Conversation:

"Last night I dreamed I dissected Lauren Wood in Earth Sciences class.  She was wearing her blue and white cheerleader outfit, the pleated skirt fanned out and the sweater cut right down the middle.  She lay there, unmoving, staring straight up at the ceiling tiles.  She was annoyed.  I could tell from the way her jaw thrust forward and her lips pressed together in a thin line.  I opened up her chest, peeling her ribs back like a half-opened Christmas present, and the entire class leaned in to get a good look.
"As I suspected," I declared, "no heart." (p. 1).

"Before the incident there hadn't been a single moment of my life without Lauren in it.  We were born in the same hospital, her the day before me.  They placed us side by side in the nursery, our first sleepover. Helen Worthington right next to Lauren Wood.  Even alphabetically, Lauren came before me.  Lauren was in every one of my birthday photos--from age one, when she has her fist buried in my cake, to fourteen when we are both posing supermodel style for the camera, Lauren's outstretched arm covering part of my face.  Looking back, I can see how she always had to be front and center" (p. 2).

"I want to be invited out.  We were always second string, but now I have a chance to make the A-list."
"And that matters so much?"
"Of course it matters."  Lauren tossed her hands in the air and paced back and forth.  "My mom tells me that the friends you have in high school determine who your friends are in college, and then who your friends are for the rest of your life."
"Well, my mom says you can't buy friendship," I countered" (p 20).

"Nothing is forever, you know.  Once I'm popular, we can be friends again and then you'll be popular too.  It will all be worth it."
"What makes you think I'll want to be your friend?"
"What makes you think you'll have other options?" (p. 20).

"...Maybe the universe wants you to come back here to teach her a lesson.  Lord knows the girl could use it.  You know I'm crazy about your mom and dad, but I'm thinking karma could use a helping hand."
I didn't say anything.  I just thought about what [grandma'd] said.  That was the first time it occurred to me that instead of just thinking about revenge, dreaming about it, I could actually make it happen.  Lauren would never see it coming.  She would never expect it" (p. 35).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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