Review: The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein

lotusTitle: The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein

Author:  Libby Schmais

Genre/Pages:YAFiction/288

Publication: Delacorte Press; December 8, 2009

Rating: 2.5 BOOKMARKS

Source: Blue Slip Media

The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein is currently on a blog tour–Tourapalooza–and there is a contest running in conjunction with the tour.  Collect each French word du jour (at the tour stops) and you could win some magnifique prizes!  Visit the tour schedule here.  My word du jour is ennuyant (boring).

Lotus Lowenstein, resident of Park Slope, Brooklyn, has visions of baguettes, dashing French men, and life as an existentialist in Paris dancing through her head, but domestic conflicts intervene and keep Lotus stateside in this humorous YA debut by Libby Schmais.

I find that diary-style novels create a sense of intimacy between the reader and character.  I was immediately drawn in by Lotus’s colorful use of French terms and her cutting wit.  This YA novel is a quick read that highlights France, a country I have yet to visit.  I am usually drawn to books with exposition in Italy–I love the culture, food, and country–so a book that focused on French living was refreshing!

Ardent fan of everything French, Lotus starts a French club at school that leads to a meeting with Sean, the new guy at school.  Both Lotus and her best friend, Joni, are smitten and Sean isn’t above playing one girl against the other.  Working with teenagers on a daily basis, I can attest to the power that males have over friendships between females.  I’ve seen boys create rifts between girls who’ve been friends since grade school.  Libby Schmais’s portrayal of the manipulation is spot on!

Lotus never does make it to Paris–a trip to Montreal must suffice.  Against the French-Canadian backdrop, Lotus and Joni vie for Sean’s attentions, but Lotus ends up catching the attention of someone else–someone she’s been trying to emulate for the last few months.

Schmais has a knack for capturing the fickleness of teenagers.  At times I found Lotus to be a bit too sophisticated and worldly–knowing musicians (Joni Mitchell and John Sebastian) that typical teenagers would never know.  (Schmais does explain how she knows them, but I found it a bit too contrived.) 

As a YA fan, I think that developing a credible teenage voice is paramount to the success of the novel.  There’s a fine balance that seems difficult to achieve for many authors.  Lotus Lowenstein’s voice falls a bit short of that balance; too sophisticated on one page and too impulsive on the next.  The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein was entertaining, but I found myself wishing that Lotus would have grown a bit more from her experiences. 

If you’re a fan of diary-style YA, all things French, or are looking for a fun read with a strong female protagonist, give this novel a try.

Thanks to Sarah for the review copy!

So tell me about your favorite novel with a  YA narrator.  I’m partial to Holden Caulfield and Jessica Darling (of the series by Megan McCafferty).

7 Comments

  • At 2009.12.11 10:17, Steph said:

    Sounds like fun! I have a serious case of wanderlust at the moment, so any book that whisks me away somewhere fun and exotic (not that I would consider Montreal exotic… 😉 ) sounds good to me!

    I am also partial to Holden Caulfield, though I haven’t visited him since I was myself a YA, so who knows if we’d still “mesh well”. I do also love Cassandra Mortmain from “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith, which is also just a really lovely book!
    .-= Steph´s last blog ..“Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single” by Heather McElhatton =-.

    • At 2009.12.11 21:55, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

      i went to montreal on a high school trip and we somehow ended up in a german restaurant with a polka band and scary food!

      i haven’t read ‘i capture the castle’ but if you like it, i’ll read it!

    • At 2009.12.11 12:58, Kathy said:

      I do love diary style books and all things French, but I also trust your opinion, so I’ll probably skip this one.
      .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Review: Christmas Cake =-.

      • At 2009.12.11 21:56, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

        kathy, i love diary style books too–my favorite series is written that way (the jessica darling books). i keep a journal when i travel so i think it appeals to me for that reason…

      • At 2009.12.13 09:13, Jenners said:

        Was your word a comment on the book or just a fluke! HAHA!
        .-= Jenners´s last blog ..State by State: A Review of 4 Essays =-.

        • At 2009.12.14 12:33, Meg said:

          Usually the novels I read tend to feature characters obsessed with England (gee, I wonder why? haha); I would definitely be intrigued to read about a teenage Francophile! I’m totally with you on the necessity of a teen narrator’s voice to be as authentic as possible — and I’m also with you on the Jessica Darling love 🙂

          By the by, my sister just finished the entire JD series this past weekend and loved them, too. She didn’t fall quite as hard for Marcus as I did, but she thought they were all great and was sad to see it end! We’re both talking about re-reading them in tandem so we can discuss everything ad nauseum! LOL
          .-= Meg´s last blog ..Book review: ‘Over The Holidays’ by Sandra Harper =-.

          • At 2010.01.23 07:26, coffeegrl said:

            I loved Jessica Darling as well. Oh, and I’ve quite enjoyed the characters created by Maureen Johnson – in particular Bermudez Triangle comes to mind. I do like travel books so this one is worth a read for me. Thanks for the tip!

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