Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Julie's Review: Cartwheel

Summary: Written with the riveting storytelling of authors like Emma Donoghue, Adam Johnson, Ann Patchett, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Cartwheel is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together. When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn’t come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans. Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? It depends on who’s asking. As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction. With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see—and to believe—in one another and ourselves. In Cartwheel, duBois delivers a novel of propulsive psychological suspense and rare moral nuance. No two readers will agree who Lily is and what happened to her roommate. Cartwheel will keep you guessing until the final page, and its questions about how well we really know ourselves will linger well beyond. ~powells.com

Review: After Cartwheel was getting a lot of buzz on a bunch of websites and blogs, I thought it was right up my alley. I happen to love crime stories and find them even more fascinating when they are based on a real story. I knew a little about the Amanda Knox trial but wasn't absorbed by it. Cartwheel would have been a fantastic novel if there was one ounce of emotion in it. I don't have to like the characters but I have to feel something towards them. I didn't. I still don't. I actually don't care if Lily killed Katy or not. It all seemed very clinical. I felt like I was reading a case study or depositions of a case.

I'm disappointed in this novel because I expected more. I wanted to delve in and really understand what made these characters tick and I didn't get that. Maybe that's some of the point though, do we really ever know the people we are closest to? Do we know what makes them tick? Do we know how they would be perceived as by others? Because that is the point. In today's society people are put on trial through social media before they even see a courtroom. Does someone really have a chance of proving themselves innocent when they've already been convicted by society?


Final Take: 2/5

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4 comments :

techeditor November 7, 2013 at 7:19 AM  

I read this, and I'm afraid I don't agree with two of your points, mainly that the book was disappointing. Here's what I thought.

CARTWHEEL is an examination of how people think of themselves and how others see them, how easily misunderstandings occur, and how the innocent can appear guilty.

Jennifer DuBois based her story on a true one from the headlines, which anyone can do. But she does with it what few writers come close to doing. Her novel A PARTIAL HISTORY OF LOST CAUSES received many great reviews and awards, but here’s a prediction: CARTWHEEL will do even better.

The story: Lily is a US citizen and student living in Buenos Aires to study there for a semester. She stays in someone’s home with another student, Katy. Eventually, Katy is murdered, and Lily is arrested as the suspect.

DuBois tells the story through the eyes of different characters. In this way, we see how they see themselves and each other, and how they perceive and misconceive others’ actions and events.

Warning: DuBois does something many readers normally dislike. She goes off on tangents; that is, she sometimes has characters, especially Lily’s father, remember events that happened years ago. Her intention, it seems, is to show how one event leads to another and to another, and so on. Other authors do this, too, and it’s boring and tedious. But DuBois’ descriptions are riveting.

Although, as I said, this is a story, and there is plot, CARTWHEEL is mostly character driven. And that is another warning. Some readers prefer plot-driven novels, and CARTWHEEL is not that. CARTWHEEL is a beautifully written and riveting character study as they are set in this story of an American girl accused of murder.

This review is of an ARC provided by Random House and won through atrandom.com.

Julie November 7, 2013 at 9:00 AM  

I don't mind character driven plots. In fact, I find them fascinating but there has to be something fascinating about them, even if I don't like them. I found none of them interesting.

thecuecard November 17, 2013 at 8:21 PM  

Too bad you didn't end up liking it. I havent read it but I was sort of looking forward to. Now I'm not so sure.

Julie November 19, 2013 at 12:02 PM  

don't let me talk you out of it. There are plenty of other bloggers who loved it. That's the great thing about reading, we can all have different opinions.

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