Monday, July 30, 2007

Review: Oh My Goth

Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter
3 stars

Summary: Jade Leigh values individuality above all else and has a small group of like-minded Goth friends who wear black and dabble in the dark arts. They're considered the freaks of their school, which is mostly very Gap-centric, but they're happy. But when Jade's smart mouth lands her in trouble once again, the principal decides to teach her and her arch-nemesis, Barbie-esque taunter of freaks Mercedes, a lesson. Taken to a remote location where they're strapped down and sedated, Jade and Mercedes wake up in a world where Goths (and therefore Jade) are cool and the norm and being preppy makes Mercedes a freak. Only Clarik, the mysterious new boy in town, operates outside the cliques. Jade and Mercedes have to work together to get back to their own reality but even if they do, will things ever be the same again?

Who would like it? Just judging by its good circulation in my library system, it seems to be generally popular with teens. I don't think actual hardcore Goth kids who are in the throes of misery would like it, but "Goth lite" kids would enjoy it. And any teen who feels like a non-prom-queen type of freak. It would be great if some mean girls could read it and realize they're really only one fad away from being freaks themselves, though I doubt that happens very often.

Overall: Well, an episode of South Park sums up my general thoughts on the Goth thing. After being dumped by his girlfriend, Stan can't stand the pain and decides to dwell on it by becoming a Goth. It's pretty simple to join them - "If you wanna be one of the non-conformists, all you have to do is dress just like us and listen to the same music we do." And that's where the whole individuality thing breaks down for me - in the wide world, you may be in the minority, but you still have to conform to the Goths. As far as I can tell, you can't wear pink and have blonde pigtails yet still care deeply about pain and be a Goth. You have to do the whole black clothes/black hair/dark makeup thing. So really, you're just conforming to another way of thinking. I kept waiting for someone to point this out in the novel and thankfully Mercedes eventually did - it always seems like such an obvious point to me.

That's not to say there's anything wrong with the whole black clothing, etc. thing. People should be free to express themselves. And it does often require more effort and creativity than just throwing on something from the Gap - I really enjoyed Jade's descriptions of all the cool Goth clothes she and her friends wear. It just seems that to rage against cliques but still be in one yourself (even though it's a small and not very powerful one) is a bit ironic. The popular kids in the book are really mean to the Goth kids, but the Goth kids aren't a whole lot nicer to the people outside of their circle, either, and have no more respect for their lifestyle than the "normals" have for the Goth one.

And that's pretty much the message of the book, not to judge people by their outward appearance (Mercedes' life isn't all that picture-perfect, for example). It's the age-old walk a mile in someone else's shoes lesson (whether they're Manolos or combat boots).

What I learned about Stephanie: Well, she said it all in her blurb about the book - she enjoys being different and has a penchant for wearing black, so this is definitely a book about her. And I also discovered that she enjoys a YA novel from time to time, which I'm always happy to see! :-)

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