Trevor Dunham talked quite a bit about his man part just before he drowned.
That is the opening line to Kathy Parks’ The Lifeboat Clique.
I thought, after reading the first pages of this book, I was going to love it. Those first pages had some vibrantly funny moments, and the language sort of excited me at first. But then it steadfastly got on my nerves like my little brother sometimes does and I was ready to give up on it altogether.
Here’s the thing, it reads like a novel draft. I’m a writer and spend a fair amount of my time beta-reading other writers’ novels. This read like one of those novels. I kept finding places where a paragraph was unnecessary, an adverb slowed a sentence down, a character said something that seemed very out of character, etc.
And It seemed very unprofessional to me.
Our author, Kathy, has a very particular way of writing, one that I think she’ll be able to tame in order to write a book that doesn’t seem so spazzy. Even though this is one of five books she’s put out into the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there are specific readers who will enjoy this book. It’s not unenjoyable, it has great moments, but it didn’t have enough to move me.
So basically, The Lifeboat Clique follows Denver Reynolds as she goes to her very first party in Malibu, which is thrown by her ex-best friend Abigail, to meet a boy from school. A tsunami strikes the coast and washes Denver, Abigail, Abigail’s obnoxious friends, and Trevor–a popular boy–out to sea, where they struggle for their lives and hash over the cruel world of high school.
Great idea. Great. And I love the cover.
The writing just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t find that the book had a whole lot of meaning. It tries really hard to make it seem like it stands for “No matter what happens to you in life, if you’re ripped out into the middle of the sea, your social status in high school can’t keep you alive,” but it doesn’t. It sort of goes around and around and around and by the end what it’s really saying is social status is useless but nobody is ever gonna let it go and thanks for reading this book.
I get it. I get what she’s saying. I just didn’t find a lot of worth in it. I felt like I wasted my time.
Here’s what I liked about this book:
- The premise
It’s a great idea, I can’t deny it. I barely read three words of the description on the inside flap before I was marching to the cashier in Barnes & Noble.
Washing a bunch of teens who hate each other out into the middle of the ocean? Sign me up.
- The main character
Denver was a great character. She’s funny, annoyingly smart, very in tune, self-aware, and most importantly, independent. I found her to be an absolute breath of fresh air.
She defied the social norms and sort of looked at everything around her with this undocumented perspective I’d like to read more of. It’s too bad the story hadn’t been riddled with so many cliches, thus making her seem like every other girl on the block.
- The drama
I expected about as much of the drama as I didn’t expect. If that makes sense. This book is centered around a friendship that fell apart between our main character and Abigail. It’s nice to read about a crumbling friendship for once when every book seems to be overpopulated by romance.
- The trace amounts of romance
I don’t want to give it away, because it is a definite sweet side to the book, one it desperately needed, one that gave it a little more life, but it was a great add in that kept me reading.
- The intro
I loved the first, like, fifty pages of this book up until they were washed out to sea. I loved the description of the party, how hopelessly awkward Denver was, how she really didn’t care but also cared a lot, I loved the passing moments of understanding between her and her crush, and I loved the drama of the wave hitting the Malibu mansion and reading as it picked off a bunch of shitty teenagers one by one.
What I didn’t like about the book:
- The side characters’ “things”
So each character has a “thing,” so to speak. Abigail has this stupid accent that read totally wrong. Hayley talks in long run-on sentences that don’t make any sense and made me hate her as a character. Trevor drums on his leg for some unknown reason. And Sienna is just such a bitch, it’s hard to believe.
- The drama
I liked parts of the drama and hated parts of the drama. Some of it was unexpected, some of it made my eyes roll back in my head because it was so overdone. We get it, *SPOILER ALERT* drunk girls and cameras don’t mix.
- The clichés
This book is riddled with clichés and it’s a totally unique concept. You know the clichés are bad if the concept wasn’t enough to counteract them.
- The language
It was cool for fifty pages. That’s it. Then it just got on my fucking nerves.
I had always been unsure about God, who he was and what form he took. Did God have a beard? On which side did he part his hair? Was his hair white, and would he ever consider using Grecian Formula? That was the problem with God. I couldn’t think of him without thinking of a million questions. Like, why did he make the color burnt orange, the ugliest color on Earth? God could have prevented burnt orange, but he just stood by and let it happen.
Uh. Okay. Burnt orange really isn’t that bad lol. And for the love of God, break up some of your paragraphs.
- The ending
It sucked. That’s all I’m going to say about it.
The thing about books like these–tragic and funny–is they’re very hard to execute well. For instance, this sort of read like it was trying to be Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in a different form. This book actually has a quote from Jesse Andrews–the author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl–on the cover.
“A savagely funny book.”
Yeah, it is funny in parts. But I think it could have been done better. It’s hard to mix tragedy with humor. It’s hard to create a plot that is enticing enough to keep the reader hooked. I didn’t think the backstory and flashbacks, which are what keeps this book moving, were enough to make me feel any type of way about this novel.
I’m completely neutral.
That being said, I can’t recommend.