Wednesday, September 19, 2012
DNF Review: Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger
Author: Tamara Faith Berger
Published: April 1, 2012
Publisher: Coach House Books
Reviewed by: Marq
summary from Goodreads
Myra, naive and curious, is on a family vacation to the southernmost tip of Florida – a mangy Key West full of Spring Breakers. Here, suffering through the embarrassments of a family on the verge of splitting up, she meets Elijah, a charismatic Tanzanian musician who seduces her at the edge of the tourist zone. Myra longs to lose her virginity to Elijah, and is shocked to learn he lives with Gayl, a secretive and violent woman with a strange power over him. Myra and her family return to an unnamed, middle-class, grey Canadian city and she falls in with a pot-smoking, intellectual anarchist crowd. When Gayl and Elijah travel north and infiltrate Myra’s life, she walks willingly into their world: Myra continues to experiment sexually with Elijah, while Gayl plays an integral part in the increasingly abject games. Maidenhead traverses the desperate, wild spaces of a teenage girl’s self-consciousness. How does a girl feel scared? What is she scared of? And how does telling yourself not to be scared really work? As Myra enters worlds unfamiliar of sex, porn, race and class, she explores territories unknown in herself.
I will admit that I decided to read this book because the title intrigued me. With the title Maidenhead, a book is sure to grab your attention. Unfortunately this book did not work for me on so many levels and after reading 37%, I had to put it down. I have no idea what the author was trying to accomplish with this book. Whatever it was, it went completely over my head.
I didn't get or understand this book at all. Maidenhead is told in the 1st person POV (Myra) and it's written like it's stream of consciousness. At some point, I'm wondering if she's high or drunk because her thoughts are so scattered.
Myra is 16 years old and is on vacation with her family at Key West when she meets Elijah. Elijah is Tanzanian and he's older than Myra. They chat and then he convinces her to walk back to his room where he proceeds to force her to pee and then make sexual advances towards her which leads to him peeing on her. Yeah, I said pee on her. He did an R. Kelly. I was going to DNF the book at that point but figured I'd continue reading and hope that the book gets better. Wrong. Myra returns to the scene of the pee crime because she really likes Elijah code word: she's horny, and wants to see him again. She returns to his room where she catches him in the act of going down on a woman. A woman who Myra saw coming out of the bathroom bleeding, holding a towel between her legs. Huh? This is when the book gets even stranger (if that's even possible) and I had to DNF at the 37% mark. It was hard to follow, disturbing to read and again, I didn't get it.
And to make Maidenhead even more weird, mixed in with Myra's POV, we are interrupted by lee and gayl who are "narrators" of the story? I have no idea. Whenever they showed up in the story, it broke up the flow of an already confusing narration.
Another thing that bothered me and this is a personal issue for me, is that the "bad" , the guy who Myra wants to give her virginity to despite her already weird encounters with him, is Elijah, an African guy from Tanzania. And Gayl, Elijah's paramour, is also black (or African). These two infiltrate Myra's life and not in a good way. The stereotype was so blatant and it really bothered me. I thought we were more evolved where we didn't have to fall back on played out stereotypes of white and black. Am I being too sensitive because the bad black people lure the innocent white girl over to the dark side and corrupt her? Maybe I am but I didn't like it and it's another reason why I DNFd this book.
I have no desire to pick this book back up and finish it. The plot was hard to follow, Myra's POV was incoherent at times, it was just a mess. And the sex scenes I did read were just plain gross. If this was a simple book about a 16 year old girl looking to lose her virginity, this would have been a completely different review.