Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wanted: Dead or In Love

I was drawn to this book because the description immediately tapped into my passion for classic film. (The protagonist's name is Monroe, "as in Marilyn"). It's no news to anyone that classic film is my own kind of catnip. It's refreshing to find a YA novel that features a female protagonist who has a different kind of interest. I first became enamored with old movies when I was a pre-teen, and it was difficult for me to relate this to anyone my own age. Anytime I wanted to talk about another old movies I'd watched, I'd ask my grandmother about it. Even now as an adult, I know very few other adults who have a similar interest in it. I give credit to an author who creates a protagonist whose passion for vintage Hollywood and history drives the story forward, rather than just serving as a quirk that alienates her from her peers.

I think the cover definitely hints at a YA story, but I think it could have better represented the narrative if it included a better look at Monroe. Early on, she reveals that she has her hair dyed black and cut into a short flapper style, so perhaps a model with a Louise Brooks-type look, and a photograph which shows us more than one eye and part of her hand would have been more interesting.

The story draws on the glamour of doomed romance that is frequently found in pre-code films during Hollywood's Golden Age. These films are not (usually) a show of feminist ideals; the women are shown in slinky satin nighties, falling prey to men that they know are no good but loving every minute of it and frequently playing damsels in distress and/or shrieking drama queens.

But check out this fun video montage (set to a Madonna tune!) of women in pre-code films:

The romance of classic film is brought to life (literally) with the infamous Bonnie and Clyde, who have been resurrected in spirit form and take over the bodies of Monroe and her new friend Jack.

The premise of the book was unique enough to draw me in, but I quickly tired of the cliche gangster speak of the reincarnated Bonnie, who lives inside Monroe's thoughts and taunts her.

The chapters that are focalized through Clyde (who inhabits Jack's thoughts, and quickly learns how to control him) are more tolerable. Maybe it's because he is characterized in the manner of an old film star, such as Clark Gable or James Cagney. He loves the ladies: he loves to love them, and he loves to hate them. Kiss em', or slap 'em or if all else fails, grab a grapefruit:

I love the originality of this book, but I really wish that Bonnie had more to say than quips such as "I ain't no squealer" and "He's my man."

I wrote earlier that pre-code Hollywood isn't a shining picture of modern feminism, but I guess that really depends on one's own perception of what feminism should be. If you think that a woman's sexuality should be at her disposal to use as she likes in plays of power, then some of these films might hold up to that. But none of these women are CEO's in power suits. Bonnie Parker matches that description a little more closely based on her notoriety and her influence and the threat she posed to The Man. Therefore, she really should have had more to say, especially as she was transplanted into 2014; she skipped right over second wave feminist age into the third! Although come to think of it, maybe Bonnie wouldn't have been concerned with reproductive rights or workplace inadequacies.  .  .

After all, Clyde (inhabiting Jack's body) seems to adapt pretty well to 2014. He figures out how use cell phone and credit cards, and gives Monroe the nickname Twinkle, after the diamond stud she wears above her lip. The contrast of it along with Bonnie's lines make her very one dimensional.

I kept reading mainly because I wanted to see what would happen to Clyde. I have a penchant for horror, ghosts and gore but it was really more of a history nerd kind of paranormal romance.

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