Warning: Spoilers! If you want to be surprised, buy a copy. Otherwise let’s boogie!
So, I finished a reading a new novel! I usually read old pulp horrors and the odd Walking Dead tie-in but, due to the novel I’m planning now, I need to branch out genre-wise. Being a fan of Lang Leav’s poetry, I was actually pretty buzzed when I heard her debut novel was to be released this year. Two failed trips to Waterstones and a few clicks on Amazon later, I managed to get my hands on a copy.
Sad Girls starts off with the funeral of a girl who committed suicide. Audrey, our main protagonist, is wracked with guilt but won’t explain why. This is a pretty good hook and it does make you want to know more but sadly, it does not deliver. Sad Girls is an okay novel; it’s well written, the vocabulary is descriptive without resorting to purple prose. I burned through this in four days and not once did I ever get bogged down in pointless adjectives. However, there are problems…
Audrey is pretty unlikable due to her self-centered attitude and her casual leapfrogging from one love interest to the next. We’re meant to sympathize with her due to her anxiety attacks which do not affect the plot as much as you think. Seriously, if you took the anxiety out the novel it would barely make a dent in the character. So why have it?
Not to mention the other characters. ‘Duck’, her first boyfriend, purely exists to provide a contrast to the main character and isn’t explored other than to be jealous of ‘Rad’ (good name choices…). Rad himself is the boyfriend of Ana and is presented as somewhat of a bad boy (except he isn’t.) Then there’s Candela who succumbs to drug addiction along with her biker boyfriend.. to which they immediately get better and end up married.
The plot seems interesting initially. A girl dies from an apparent suicide, there’s the mystery behind Audrey and if she had anything to do with it and her anxiety is meant to be as a result of it. Instead, it goes into a plot of Audrey and Rad struggling with their feelings for each other, Audrey somehow landing a prestigious internship at a magazine where she’s beloved and Rad ending up writing a novella that sets the literary world on fire.
It’s things like this I dislike personally. Not to rattle on but… Audrey gets a fancy job, is offered to house-sit (TWICE!!!) and even then, she throws it all away due to her guilt. This feels heavily idealized. The house-sitting thing gets to me because it feels like one of those fantasy sequences you have a teenager. You know, the one where you have a wonderful house that’s always clean and full of things you always wanted to buy? Then you grow up, all the local homes are overpriced and dingy then there’s a little thing called rent…
The worst part of the novel for me was when she made an impulse trip Colorado (all because of Rad being named after that state – I know there’s something about his mother never making the trip but the protagonist is a teenager who isn’t pregnant). And her mother ponies up the cash despite being an antagonistic figure for most of the story. It ends with her finding her way back to Rad, the pointless death of a side-character and the revelation Rad accidentally killed Ana. Blah blah, they move to America as one of his stories has been optioned by a Hollywood producer. They live happily ever after despite knowing what they have done. Oh, she never confesses her lie regarding Ana except to Rad so it can kickstart her trip to Colorado.
I was actually enjoying the story for most of it. Up until the Colorado arc, I was willing to ignore the little things because the story was engaging and enjoyable. I wanted to learn more about the characters. This story would have been immensely improved had she taken off the middle class gloss and portrayed the reality of Audrey’s situation. Show how Ana’s parents are dealing with it, show the effect the suicide has on Audrey and her friends. I’ll admit, I didn’t like the last part of the novel but I don’t regret reading it as a whole. Lang Leav shows a lot of promise. Her descriptions of characters and places feels almost second nature. It’s just the characters and the plot line. Bear in mind, it’s a debut novel and she can only improve. Hopefully, she’ll grow as a novelist and she’ll utilize her strengths in a story worthy of them.