Friday, October 24, 2008

Like freaks and geeks?

If you liked Paul Fieg and Judd Apatow's short-lived but critically acclaimed series Freaks and Geeks, then chances are you will enjoy Kate Evans's new novel, For the May Queen. Peppered with nostalgic homages to the late seventies and early eighties, this debut novel follows lost but liberated Norma Rogers through her freshman year at Sacramento State.

Norma comes from a loving home, not unlike the Brady Bunch's quirky suburban enclave (sans four siblings and a maid), yet her sense of self is fragile at best. Fresh from reading her mother's copy of Fear of Flying, Norma shows up at her freshman dorms ready to put her sexual liberation into practice. She quickly falls into a rabbit hole of recreational drugs and bed-hopping, leaving little time to actually attend classes.

At times, I wanted to reach into the pages of Evans's book and stop Norma from climbing on top of yet another nearly anonymous partner. When Norma finally finds "somebody to love," (Queen lyric reference intentional), he remains painfully elusive and Norma must confront the question at the center of the novel: If no one loves me, then who am I?

I might have hated Norma if I didn't identify so much with her college-years angst, teenaged lack of self esteem, misplaced belief in empowerment through sexuality, and her desire to be defined by someone, anyone.

But Evans brings Norma's growing sense of self along nicely, giving the reader the satisfying feeling that Norma just might make it after all, while never giving in to the temptation to give her heroine the happy ending you might expect from a first time novelist. Instead, the happy enough ending Evans gives us satisfies even more.

And though the themes in the book are deceptively dark, Evans keeps the tone of the novel light, weaving in pop culture references that are spot on reminders of times gone by--some we remember fondly, and some that we'd rather forget.

--Anne J. Paris


Collin Kelley said...

Fantastic review!!!

donna said...

I was directed from another blog, Land Mammal. I immediately reserved your book at the library as I'm in the process (at 40) of getting my teaching credential and have wondered about the very issues--I think--your book discusses. I've got lots of teacher-friends who are lesbian, I wonder if they've ever read a book like yours. Though I am slightly worried about getting hired and dealing with other straight teachers, I'm not very concerned about students: I don't look gay, and no one is going to "figure out" I'm a lesbian. But this has nothing to do with why I'm posting. I'm trying to find the right person and place to ask this question: From both a high school student's and writer's point of view, why is it necessary to understand Freytag's Pyramid?

One response to this question was that the arts are judged by their form, literature is no exception, and Freytag's Pyramid is literature's
method for judging form.

I believe that the Pyramid does delineate the way a story naturally unfolds, and I can understand why it is important for a writer to know how an engine works before designing the car, but I'd like something better than my own thoughts on the matter why students and readers should know and understand it.

Do you have any thoughts about it?

Thank you,


Anonymous said...

I'm putting this on my list to read. Someone dear to me came out of the closet a few years ago. She shares a lot of her inner thoughts and friends' activities with me, but this is new territory for me, her quirky and liberal but straight friend. (I am teased a lot by her by what I do not know!)