Review: The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein
Title: The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein
Author: Libby Schmais
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).