Saturday, February 28, 2015

Undone by Cat Clarke #bookreview

Every good story deserves a happy ending – it’s a basic rule of storytelling. The boy next door certainly shouldn’t die.

Undone tells the tragic story of a sixteen year old boy who commits suicide, because society cannot accept that he is gay, and how his best friend Jem copes with the loss. A well written YA contemporary from UK author Cat Clarke.

Undone, published in 2012 by Quercus. 502 pages.


I have so many conflicted feelings inside of me after having finished reading Undone. On one hand it was a great read, with an unexplainable hook keeping me invested throughout the story on the other hand there were some things that bugged me very much.

Kai was the best, and the only, friend Jem had and in her opinion the only one she needed. Jem loved Kai dearly, not only as a friend, but he could never give Jem what she wanted. Jem understood and kept loving Kai all the same. One day Kai's sexuality was being outed in the worst possible way, in the end he cannot bear to live with it.

And I knew. She didn’t even have to tell me. I knew. But she told me anyway. I screamed. A raw, animal sound that I would never have imagined could come out of my body. Then I blacked out. When I woke up he was still dead.

After recovering slightly after the horrible shock Jem decides that she are going to revenge Kai. And so begins the journey, a great drama, in some ways unlike things I have read previously but also other areas recognisable from films and other novels. Jem moving up the ladder in the social hierarchy and leaving who she once was behind for the sake of payback for the boy that she loved.

He was the type of boy who would lie flat on his back in the middle of the lawn to make sure the sky above was still the same sky he’d left behind in Manchester.

Slut shaming

The story is told through the eyes of our main character, Jem, that means the reader is left to interpret her view of the world. It is soon established that Jem is not alway trustworthy in her judgment and that her view of friendship(with other people than Kai) is messed up. Jem is so judgemental, negative and suspicious. I have to say that I did not like the way Jem several times turned to slut shaming - like in this example(and this was not the worst one):
But she wasn’t wearing a scrap of make-up, which was pretty much unthinkable to the popular, slutty girls she was friends with.
Wearing make-up does not turn someone into a slut, but in Jem's bitter mind it does. Also I found Kai's voice from the afterlife felt a bit stereotypical, it sounded a bit like one of the guys from the tv-series Queer Eye. Shopping, hair and make-up.
This month is all about SHOPPING! Your very favourite thing, right?!

Social media and intolerant people

To me this was the tale of coping with grief and also how hard it can be to have the world know about your sexuality if you are not yet ready to tell and I must add that there still is a lot of narrow minded people in our world, sadly. This story also does a great job showing how social media and cell phones can be used for bullying and that things that go viral cannot be taken back. In Jem's own words:
Kai and I would be living in a world where nobody cared about your sexual orientation. Being gay wouldn’t be gossiped about or frowned upon – it wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. It would just be a fact. A mundane sort of fact.
As a parent myself I think this is a good read for adults as well as young adults. It is a reminder that one should step up, care and see the teenager - our kids needs us way beyond the age of ten. I wanted to shout at the book why the hell haven't anyone fixed therapy for Jem? But I guess we would not have had this story if Jem went to a councilor. In my opinion there is some serious case of neglect or at least turning a blind eye from the parents in this story.

‘I really, really like you, Jem.’ The way he says it makes it seem like a declaration of the deepest, most sincere love.

The cast and THE END

I sometimes wished the author had chosen another narrative point of view, the first person narrative in this story makes it difficult to get to know the other characters more intimately. Despite of the issues I had with this novel I still liked it. Jem irritated me so much, but I still could not stay away from the book - always wondering what Jem was up to.

The ending of the story was like it had to be, but still I would very much like a sequel to the story. I need more, pretty please Mrs. Clarke!
The sun’s coming up now. I was hoping for a proper, beautiful sunrise, but I think we both know you don’t always get what you wish for.

Cat Clarke was born in Zambia, but lives and writes from Scotland. Cat is publishing a new ya novel(already on my wish list), The Lost and Found, with Quercus this year, in May.


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