Friday, 25 February 2011
Review: Wait for Me by An Na
Review: This is one of those books where before I actually get to the reviewing I have to say: look at the cover. It's so gorgeous I could eat it. In fact my copy is only upstairs, and I'm still quite peckish.
I've never read any of Na's books before, but the reason I was drawn to Wait for Me was, in fact, the cover.
The story alternates perspectives between Mina and her hearing-impaired little sister Suna. Mina has a lot on her plate; the story's set the summer before her senior year in high school, and when not working in her parents' dry-cleaners she's taking care of Suna and trying to keep up the high expectations that her mother has of her, while hiding the fact that all of it is a lie. More I cannot say on that matter, because that would slightly give things away. Enter Ysrael, a Mexican immigrant who starts working for her parents and changes everything. He was, in truth, a typical mysterious guitar-playing love interest.
The writing style is probably one of my favourite things about the book. At a first look seems quite distant, as if the reader isn't feeling what the characters feel so directly, but rather is stood on the other side of the room watching them. But as I sort of got into it, it seemed like quite dream-like prose. It certainly worked well for Suna's parts of the story; but I think I would have liked to have been able to relate to Mina more than I felt like I did. I certainly wanted for her to be happy, and resolve everything with Johnathon, but I felt like I was wanting that as an observer; almost alienated from her.
Which isn't to say I didn't dislike the writing. It seems pretty cleverly crafted; Mina writes in the first person past, and Suna in the third person present. Both of them seem like the perfect ways to tell their stories in relation to the character.
The plot, however, I wasn't so keen on. I think that was mostly because it's such a short book; I don't think there was really enough time for the plot to develop realistically or clearly; the Mina/Johnathon thing, for instance. I was entirely confused as to what was going on there, or what was really going on behind it. They used to be in love, but now they're not? Yet Johnathon is still helping her keep up her perfect facade? But there's more to that, surely... The mind boggles. And, similarly, the Mina/Ysrael relationship seemed pretty rushed. It seemed like they'd just met when they were already kissing. It was, I suppose, like the story was entirely in fast-forward mode, but I couldn't slow things down and really identify with the characters. Suna, for instance. She wasn't the central character- Mina was- but I think that An Na could have gone into her with more detail, certainly. Her emotions were never really explored; just her actions. Being deaf, surely, wouldn't suddenly stop her thinking or feeling anything of her own, not that much?
Which brings me to the ending. It's a very open conclusion to the book; with nothing really clearly resolved and leaving the reader to speculate what happens. It's irritating that I can't really talk about it lest I give something away (but then, if it's an open ending, surely that implies there's nothing to give away..?) Nothing is concluded or wrapped up entirely, and though the story had come to a stopping point, it isn't an end. There's certainly a lot more potential story to it, but alas none of it was tied up. Maybe, as with some books, that could have been okay. But I still had so many questions from the rest of the plot, I would have liked to have had some of them answered.
So, it's a nice enough book, but it really could have done with some more filling out and plot development. I'm not sure if I would read any more of Na's novels, but I suppose I'm glad I read this.
In three words: rushed, poetic, hmmm.
Recommended for: mothers and daughters.