A few weeks ago I did a book spotlight for a book called White Chalk, published by a small indie press. I finished the book a week ago, and have cooked up a review for you.
White Chalk by Pavarti K. Tyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Disclaimer: Received from publisher for review.
This book is...difficult to review. Instead of my usual thoughts-flowing review, I'm going to comment on different aspects of this book.
First and foremost: plot
As the reviews and synopsis reveal, this is an adult book. It goes include graphic/erotica-type sex scenes. I am not really into that genre, and I don't usually like to read books about the abuse or sexual assault of children. But, this book softened the blow some. It didn't describe things in that way that makes me feel nauseous for days after reading it/can't finish it. I felt for Chelle, even related to her at times, feeling like I'd experienced some of what she did (like being in love with an oblivious friend, some of the self-destructive behavior, etc). I liked all Chelle's friendships, though at times I wanted to shake her and tell her to appreciate the good things in her life.
Characters: I loved some of the supporting characters--actually, most of them. Except Mr. Harris, who was a total lech. Cat was awesome, Xiu, Troy (their friendship was the best thing about this book--I wish Chelle had been able to see him as he saw her, because he really did care for her and was a good friend to her). Sure, her parents were shamefully awful, but the people around her seemed to really care for her--even the one-night-stand guy was totally decent and I wished she'd reached out to him instead of pedo Harris. (view spoiler)[ Speaking of...When he let her drive, it made me cry for the poor girl. Even such a small kindness shown her made her so happy it broke my heart. But when he left her by the side of the road...I couldn't believe she wanted anything to do with him after that! Such a pig! (hide spoiler)]
Writing: This book is proof that a book doesn't have to be perfectly edited and error free to be enjoyable. I must have found a few dozen missing punctuation marks, but I hardly noticed. They didn't effect my reading experience, because I was drawn in enough that they didn't jar me out of the story. Who cares about commas--I wanted to know what happened next!
Tyler is truly gifted with words. All the scenes where Chelle finds relief in cigarettes were awesome. Also, just loved how she poked fun at the instalove we see everywhere. Chelle falls in love the moment she sees Troy, but it's so cliche and obviously mocking the idea that it was comical. And where she describes how his hunched, narrow shoulders are so sexy, it totally cracked me up. And rings true--if you have a crush on someone (or are in soul-crushing love) even his scrawny concave chest is hot. And Mr. Harris was obviously a fat gross old man, but she described it in such a way that it seemed completely normal to her, which made his ick-factor only skyrocket. Beyond all that, her descriptions of Chelle's inner life drew me in and made me believe the melodrama of her mind, the end-of-the-world pain she felt even in her eye-rolling teenage drama moments. I remember how that felt, when every pain was magnified, every snub excruciating.
I also loved Chelle's casual brutality. She'd be going on in her emo voice of depression, and suddenly she'd say something like "I wished I could kill her and leave her body in a ditch" or "It sucked so bad I wanted to shoot myself in the face." (not exact quotes) I had a friend who talked EXACTLY like that when I was in college, so it kind of cracked me up and made it ring true.
Overall: Tyler is absolutely a brilliant writer. This wasn't a quick read for me, but I never lost interest, even when I couldn't get to the book for a few days at a time. An engrossing, disturbing read that managed the perfect blend of darkness and comedy.
Content warning: explicit sex scenes, including those between a 14-year-old and an adult. Every objectionable word possible. Self-harm and violence of adults towards each other and children.
View all my reviews