Title: Very LeFreak
Author(s): Rachel Cohn
Genre: YA College, addiction, character-driven
Page Count: 303
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
The Summary: Meet Very LeFreak, playlist maker, party planner, heartbreaker, good-time girl who can't get enough good time.
Mute Button? As if.
Off button? Never.
-- from backcover
The Review: As much as I enjoyed this novel, I suspect that it isn’t for everyone. Very’s voice is very pronounced, and it’s a bit hard to get into at first because she’s just so intense and almost offputting with her out there, off-kilter personality, but if you adjust to “Very speed” you’ll find a most enjoyable novel. In fact, I ended up enjoying this novel for its extremely character-driven story, and Very’s over the top antics. And I loved that despite how off-kilter and out there Very can be, there’s a part about her that makes you think that you can see a bit of yourself in her character. (On the flip side, if you never warm up to Very then you’re never going to enjoy this novel. Your enjoyment is mostly definitely dependant on how much you like the main character here.)
I actually reallyyyyy liked the fact that Very was totally open about sexuality. I know that given Very’s personality, she would probably resist all attempts at labels, but she comes across to me as pansexual, which is totally cool in my books. Also, it’s just so refreshing to see female characters who own their sexuality and are not portrayed as evil!whores (usually next to the nice virgin female protagonist) because of it. I’m also extremely happy that this technological addict protagonist of ours is depicted as totally a social extrovert and gorgeous to boot. I haven’t read much YA books with techno addicts as part of the cast, but usually in animanga and stuff, girls who like techno, internet or gaming related things are depicted as these super hideous, socially awkward people.
While this book is very much an All-Very on-the-spotlight show 24/7, we get a nice cast of diverse characters with strong personalities that make a lasting impression. I really love the growing relationship between Very and Lavinia-who-is-really-Jennifer. (this book totally passes the bedchel test, btw. ♥) MAJOR ENDING SPOILERS: [ It’s so nice to see relationships that start off with two people actually being FRIENDS first, instead of you know, jumping into the whole love-at-first-sight thing. They kill me with their cuteness.] I love seeing their banter, and the way Lavinia shakes her head at her impossible friend but sticks with her to the end. And the boys! Cuddly-yet-total-sore-loser Bryan, to green eyeliner French-Canadian-Chinese Jean-Wayne, and extreme, sultry, gorgeous Vikram. All delightful, fascinating interactions. I ate up the dialogue in this novel like cake.
I really enjoyed this novel’s use of technology. I know all the pop culture references could end up sounding dated, but for me I really connected with it. And I’d like to think that the descriptions of the way Very was obsessed would override the dated aspect that may arise in readers of the future diving into this novel. And that obsession with technology totally rang true for me. Incidentally I connected with the playlist and music stuff less, because I only casually listen to USian music, but I found them enjoyable even if I didn’t know a lot of the songs mentioned, because the song titles were cues enough to understand what Cohn was trying to get at. I’ve seen reviews saying that they found the first part lacking/boring/confusing, but I confess that I really enjoyed it. I liked the depiction of campus life. It conveyed all that rush and buzz of March Madness in the undergrad’s life, and how you should really be writing this paper but end up using media to block out all the pile of assignments that are overwhelming you. (Who has gone through undergrad and NOT done this?
The second part was most excellently done without being preachy as well. It was less on how Technology Addiction Is Bad, and more focused on Very unpacking her emotional baggage and trying to forge a new, healthier path for herself, trying to change for the better. I surprisingly enjoyed all the Keisha-the-counselor and Very interactions, and I liked how Keisha lets Very sort things out for herself, and guides her when Very asks for advice. There was a lot of hilarious anecdotes in this second half as well. One of my favourite interaction scenes, besides the Lavinia ones (which carry on being awesome into the second half), was the confrontation moment between Very and her aunt. It was awkward yet sweet, the tender attempts at bonding with your estranged family relation. (I’m a total sucker for family moments, in case my followers haven’t realized yet, lol.)
I really enjoyed the writing too, because it captured Very’s voice so beautifully in the Very Narration. (Har har, my puns are fail) I loved her splattered tangents, her fluid exchange from real life experiences to her constant text-ing, her endless and highly amusing fantasies with El Virus. Even the use of capslock was totally effective. (I was with Very 100% on her rage over Bryan.
The Verdict: SO MUCH FUN AND AWESOME. I had a great time reading this novel. I love the voice, the characters, VERY HERSELF, I know it’s hard to get into at first because it’s just so out there, but seriously, so much fun, everyone should at least give it a shot.
Title and Cover Discussion: omg, the cover is SO PERFECT. Unique, strange, and memorable, and embodies the whole novel snugly like a glove. And I personally think the cover is drop dead gorgeous. The cover model’s got some seriously beautiful hair, and I am simply in love with the font. It’s the kind of cover that makes me stop and reach out for a copy in the bookstore. 8D