Sunday, May 15, 2011

Carrie Pilby

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner (2003; NY: Harlequin Teen, 2010).

Carrie Pilby is a nineteen-year-old Harvard graduate living alone in New York City and trying to gain the social skills she never learned. She skipped three grades and trusted her father's "Big Lie" that she would finally meet people like herself in college. Instead, she had a brief affair with a pervy English professor and became disgusted with her fellow students' twin obsessions: liquor and sex. So she's left in her current predicament of needing to learn how to connect with people. She has a therapist—her father insisted on this—and he outlines some tasks to help her that include: joining an organization and going on a date. If all of this sounds fairly mundane, it would be if not for Carrie's uniquely hilarious, and naturally introspective, perspective on herself, people around her, and her own issues. For instance, because she feels most people are immoral, she approaches her tasks as a way of proving this point. Thus, she joins a church but mainly to demonstrate that it's a cult, and she finds a date in the personal ads with a guy who wants to cheat on his fiancĂ©, so she can rat him out to the fiancĂ©. Circumstances lead her to learn that not everything is as black and white as she assumes—that there's lots of gray space that she must learn to navigate.

Carrie is such a wonderful character I hated for this novel to end. Her analysis of the college social scene is horrifically honest yet spot on. While her situation merits sympathy, she's not pathetic because she has such a strong sense of her own self-worth, and she's willing to bend a bit by the end of the novel. Kudos to Harlequin Teen for reissuing this excellent YA read (originally published in 2003). Highly recommended for ages 14 & up, especially socially awkward overachievers. Sexual situations, language, alcohol.

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