#23 “Goose” by Dawn O’Porter

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  1. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  2. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  3. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  4. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  5. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  6. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  7. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  8. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  9. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  10. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  11. Hades – Candice Fox
  12. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  13. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  14. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  15. The Scorch Trials – James Dashner
  16. The Death Cure – James Dashner
  17. A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby
  18. More Than This – Patrick Ness

A little while ago, when  I reviewed Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, I talked a little about voice trends, and how a few books I’ve read now all seem to be written to sound exactly the same. You know, to capitalise on the success of that “trendsetter” The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Well, as I was reading Goose I discovered another YA trend, one that should have occurred to me a long time ago:

When did it become “vogue” for all YA books that aren’t fantasy to be depressing as fuck?

When I was a teenager, the YA books I read were about ordinary teenagers with ordinary school problems and maybe a few extraordinary elements, like the main character finding out that she was a princess of a tiny European principality that no one had heard of. All of the teenagers had their own problems, but they weren’t as dark and hopeless as they are now. Why has this become a thing? Why has it become such a trend for teenagers to have such super serious problems? Is it so that teenagers can feel validated? People never take teenagers seriously. Teenage problems are called teenage problems for a reason. Adults never care and shrug them off. We’ve all been there. Yes, our hormones blow our problems out of proportion when our age has a “teen” on the end, but that doesn’t make them any less real to us at the time.
I always felt comforted by the “trivial” problems in the YA books I used to read: fitting in, does that boy like me, exams, homework, work, getting along with siblings. All of these things I could relate to and get on board with. But, lately, all of the YA books I’ve read have heroes and heroines with lives that are tapestries woven of the most awful things that could possibly happen to anyone. I’ve read characters who’ve had to suffer through:

  • Parents leaving
  • Parents dying
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault (so, everything but rape)
  • Grandparents with dementia
  • Physically abusive family members
  • Terrible bullying
  • Terminal diseases
  • Mental illness

And a lot of the time? These aren’t isolated events. The characters have multiple traumatic things happen to them. Seriously, why is this a thing? Has the publishing industry suddenly gotten together and decided that teenage characters are only worth a reader’s time if they have a life that is a hundred times more miserable than the average reader? Or have teenagers become sadder than when I was in high school (which was only five years ago)?

Let’s look at our two protagonists in Goose shall we?

Renée

  • Mum died of breast cancer when she was seven
  • Dad ran off with his second family
  • her sister almost died of anorexia
  • her live-in grandmother has severe dementia
  • her grandfather died, but he was a bastard anyway
  • her aunty got divorced from a horrible man who never felt that she, her aunty, was good enough
  • and this isn’t even mentioning the things that happen to Renée throughout the course of the story

Flo

  • Dad died of a heart attack when she was fourteen
  • her mum is an emotionally distant bitch
  • she was terribly and consistently bullied throughout her schooling life
  • and, again, this isn’t mentioning what happens to Flo throughout the book

Honestly? Why was all this misery necessary? Why do our heroines have to start from such a dark place? I don’t understand the need for such darkness. And it’s consistent through most YA today. I mean, why? Like the world isn’t fucked up enough as it is.

Anyway, I should probably stop ranting and talk about the book itself.

Even though this book is littered with the worst kinds of human misery, I was hooked. It was short and riveting and I finished it in a day. More accurately, I finished it in bed this morning when I was still in denial about my having to actually start my day. The character development of both Renée and Flo was exquisitely done. More so because it was kind of like seeing two sides of the one coin. Flo goes one way, and Renée the other. O’Porter gave us two girls who have very similar (read: depressing) backgrounds and shows us how they both deal with those backgrounds.

I want to talk about Flo’s development, most specifically. She turns to God. She walks into a church one day and finds something in that space that her existing life and social network can’t give her. This was a very risky move on O’Porter’s part, but she nailed it. Flo doesn’t go on huge diatribes about God and all of His wisdom. In fact, she barely talks about God himself. Instead, Flo talks about what her faith does for her. This is the quote that best sums it up. Flo is trying to explain to Renée why she likes going to church so much:

“It gives me something to believe in. It takes the pressure off me. It gives me guidance, when I am doubting how I should behave. It makes me feel like Dad is within my reach, like I am still connected to him in some way. It makes me feel part of a community, a group of people I can be myself with. But mostly it’s made me feel less guilty, less self-consumed. Less like I am all I have in the entire world and like when the time comes that I leave home and leave this island I won’t be completely on my own. It just makes me feel better, Renée. Is that so bad?”

O’Porter doesn’t talk about God himself very much, or church, or services, or the Bible. I think so that she doesn’t isolate Flo from the readers. Religion is a very personal thing that people come to terms with on their own. What O’Porter did was show us why and how religion can be important to someone without getting all preachy on us. I think that’s why O’Porter gave us the character of Gordon, who is one of those preachy religious types that everyone avoids like the plague. One of those people who bring everything back to God, no matter the conversation matter. Flo isn’t like that. She takes solace in her faith, but she never becomes preachy. Gordon, on the other hand, seems like he is a preacher in every single conversation he’s in. He just really annoys me. Not because he’s religious, but because he’s preachy. I hate preachy people. People who preach at me about religion, politics, veganism just royally piss me off. Everyone’s entitled to their beliefs, so don’t shove yours down my throat.

Books don’t usually make me think about my own life. It’s a very rare story that I can take back into my own life and apply to situations there. Actually, I can only think of two: Stoner and Being Jade. But Goose made me think about my past relationships and how goddamn lucky I’ve been in love. It’s something I hope I will never take for granted ever again. During Renée’s character arc, she comes across this guy, Dean. The only reason I started thinking about my life when reading Goose was because of this:

“I’m in Dean’s bedroom, in his bed, and he is asleep next to me. His back is facing me. It’s a nice back, smooth. There is a tattoo on his left shoulder – it looks like a Chinese symbol or something like that.”

My >insert relationship label here< has a Chinese symbol on his shoulder. So I linked this character to him in my head. But the further I got into the story, the further and further Dean fell from my >insert relationship label here<‘s level. Dean came off all lovely and wordily and mature but then he came out with this, while he was talking to Renée about her sexual past:

“So you lost your virginity at fifteen? Wow, that’s young…You sexy minx, I bet you were gagging for it…But four people and you only just turned eighteen? You’re racking them up!”

But the worst?

“Because men fuck and women get fucked, babe. Women can’t behave like men when it does to sex. It’s just the way it is.”

This guy made Renée feel guilty for being a “slut” (which she isn’t!) but cashes in on her sexual freedom. He is the biggest sleaze that I have ever read in my reading career and I really wanted someone to punch him in the face. Or castrate him. I think maybe the reason he slept with girls so much younger than him (Renée was 18, he was 25) was because he felt like he could manipulate them. An older woman would not put up with his crap. But teenagers, unfortunately, are usually insecure already so he could capitalise on that insecurity and ensure that he continually gets laid.

And because this guy is so slimy and gross, I feel like I should never take for granted what I have ever again. And to keep that in mind when things get hard, as relationships always do.

I’ve neglected to mention that this book is a sequel. Paper Aeroplanes is the first book in this series, but I never read it. I won Goose in a competition I entered ages ago hosted by My Crazy Bookish World. I didn’t realise it was a sequel until I was about twenty pages into the novel. But it really doesn’t matter. Goose could easily be a standalone novel. Though, I may pick up Paper Aeroplanes anyway, just because I enjoyed Goose so much. It’s smart, addictive, thought-provoking, and entertaining. And, really, what else do you need in novel?

★★★★

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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2 Responses to #23 “Goose” by Dawn O’Porter

  1. You raise a really important point here Bec, (OH AND I LOVED PRINCESS DIARIES WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL!) it’s not just one trauma that YA characters seem to go through in heart wrenching contemporaries these days – it’s multiple! Whether it’s to make it seem all the more relatable, or even more sad, or really tug at the heart strings, I don’t know. But sometimes it’s just a bit TOO much if you know what I mean?

    • Bec Graham says:

      (OMG how awesome was Princess Diaries? But TEN books? I thought it went on a little long. Like Artemis Fowl, but anyway).
      And I definitely know what you mean. Why does YA have to be SO dramatic? And traumatic? Being a teenager is enough drama as it is?
      I feel like I want to find out why. I reckon John Green and “The Fault In Our Stars” has something to do with it. Like, honestly. Ever since that and “Perks of Being A Wallflower”, YA is just a tearfest.

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