My Review:Welcome to LA? Nineties' Hollywood gets an Italian makeover in this poignant and ruefully funny coming-of-age novel featuring a teenage girl who's on shaky ground in more ways than one.
Mere weeks after the 1992 riots that laid waste to Los Angeles, Eugenia, a typical Italian teenager, is rudely yanked from her privileged Roman milieu by her hippieish filmmaker parents and transplanted to the strange suburban world of the San Fernando Valley. With only the Virgin Mary to call on for guidance as her parents struggle to make it big, Hollywood fashion, she must navigate her huge new public high school, complete with Crips and Bloods and Persian gang members, and a car-based environment of 99-cent stores and obscure fast-food franchises and all-night raves. She forges friendships with Henry, who runs his mother's movie memorabilia store, and the bewitching Deva, who introduces her to the alternate cultural universe that is Topanga Canyon. And then the 1994 earthquake rocks the foundations not only of Eugenia's home but of the future she'd been imagining for herself.
This book took me nearly a week. I kept putting it down and had to force myself to pick it back up every time. I did not want to finish it but I did so out of guilt. It actually picked up about 75% in but it was never what I would term "enjoyable." It wasn't that the writing was bad or even the plot, really, but I never connected with this. It was written in a narrative style and jumped around a lot. It was supposed to be linear but there were weird gaps of time that threw me off. I appreciated the reflection of LA in the 90's and the fish out of water first person POV but that was about it. The whole thing felt too fantastic to me even though every word could have been true. This might really sing for some people, especially if you have a real nostalgia for the LA of the early 90s but it didn't quite come together for me. One tip: throw your hopes for political correctness out the window if you do read this.
Things That Happened Before the Earthquake comes out next week on August 15, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.
When I told my Roman schoolmates we were moving to America they all gasped. I should refuse to move to an imperialist country. America was evil. That was the bottom line. Ours was a politically active institution. Every year students conducted a sit-in on the school grounds to protest government decisions about public education. The real activists printed pamphlets and screamed communist slogans into megaphones. The rest of us like the excuse of sleeping away from home. We camped in sleeping bags inside the freezing gym, smoked hash, and talked about "the system." Nobody washed for days. Halls were littered with cigarette butts, posters, and empty cartons of pizza-our only sustenance. Most of the boys had anxious Italian mothers who snuck home-cooked meals through the gates. They didn't want to look like mama's boys so they ate their food alone in the restrooms.