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EricaO

EricaO

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California

California - Emma Galvin, Edan Lepucki Haha, this is narrated by the same woman who narrates the Divergent books so this sounds like the altnerate Tris and 4bias story.

Alright, so...I made a poor decision in choosing this one. After I read karen's review, which, by the way, would make a fine opposing viewpoint to this review, I knew it would be a story that irritated me. But, see, we were having computer problems and I couldn't get Overdrive to work so I went to Hoopla and they had this there, front-n-center, and I ... after all the buzz and Sherman Alexie-ing (and I really like that guy) and Colberting and Down-with-Amazon!ing (it's fun to say that on Goodreads!) well, I just thought I'd give it a shot.

I can't one-star this because there is a plot and the writing is fine and there's nothing technically wrong with it.
I just couldn't believe the premise.

That was the thing: I could not believe the story. None of it. My skepticism started with Cal and Frida. How in the hell had they survived for 2+ years on their own in the wilderness? They're morons! Complete and utter imbeciles. They should have been eaten by a bear in the first chapter. My problem came when Frida (I started calling her Frito in my mind just to make her more entertaining because I hated her)(HAAAATE) was late with her period and decided that meant she was pregnant. There were discussions here and there about "Are you sure? Because maybe you're not for this bunch of reasons," but it was never seriously doubted, her pregnancy. Now, ok, let's break this down:
Cal and Frito had both come from a crumbling society but were still well-fed and relatively healthy.
Cal and Frito left the crumbling society for Reasons and have been living in the wilderness for 2+ years.
Cal and Frito suck at hunting and their gardening seems limited to beets (this is the real reason you liked this story, isn't it, karen?) Frito can find mushrooms in the forest, though Cal really can't.
Cal and Frito should have lost a LOT of weight on their new lifestyle plan: eat raw foods and whatever rabbit they can ensnare + work all day on surviving and homesteading + SEX all day, every day + stress over the world ending, etc. All extra fat = GONE!
SO! Why is Frito still even able to have periods after 2+ years of this new lifestyle plan? Why hasn't her body stopped using precious resources to bleed? That's what a body often does in times of extreme duress, weight loss, and when in survival mode, especially when a body has been soft and pampered and not used to any of this stuff. It's going to protect itself and stop having periods. So why didn't that happen? Six months in, sure, I could buy a pregnancy. 2+ years of eating mushrooms and beets and having a lot of sex and hard labor and very little protein? No.
From there, everything else fell apart for me. I couldn't buy into the whole premise of the story, ergo, there was no story.

Other gripes:
-Cal is a creeper. His fondest dream has been to be trapped alone in the world with only Frida and his dream came true! He looks at her a lot, just watching her because he looooves her with all his heart and possessive nature. He has a thing for 1950's American societal norms and wants to be the next (and last) Ozzie and Harriet which...why did he marry someone who is always talking about how she doesn't have to do what men want her to do because she is a human and a person and blah blah blah?
-Frida is a giant waste of words. She is an ardent feminist in lipservice but never in action. She's shallow. She may have some sort of disorder that is never addressed but that seems to drive most of her behavior. She's pretty out of touch with reality. I really do not understand how she's survived at all! And you know what really chapped my hide? Frida takes her first good shower in ten bajillion years and you know what she does? She shaves. She shaves and is thrilled to be hair-free again. This is the mindset I could not get over. A woman who has been "surviving" in nature for over two years, a woman who has supposedly had to let a lot of stuff go, a FEMINIST who believes women and their images, roles in society, and general actions should not be dictated by the opinions of men...is excited about shaving her fucking legs and armpits. And then she goes on to judge another woman, one who is actually good at surviving and homesteading and being part of a culty team, for having hairy armpits. OMG! Seriously? This is what Frida does. She constructs a ghost of a shell of her former life around her so that she doesn't have to deal with her actual environment and it's frustrating because there are no consequences to this behavior. She's not eaten by a bear, she's not trapped in a cave under fallen rocks, she's not sold into slavery by the roaming bands of pirates (what?), etc. No, instead, she winds up living in StepfordWifeLandia with her soon-to-be baby and her cake baking and her shaved legs and her domestic life because feminism was just a passing phase.
-The forms?/spikes: Why are they so scary? They're super big, right? Like 6+ feet? No one is going to accidentally impale themselves on these things, they're too tall. Are they all razor-edged so that if you get too close, you get sliced up? Even if that is the case, you don't actually have to try to squeeze between them, though if they're not all razory, why wouldn't you just squeeze between them? I had no idea what this was all about, why they were so scary, and how they kept out intruders. I also didn't understand how so many could have been created and erected in five years. Was it five years? It was a short amount of time and there were limited resources so...no. Didn't get that.
-The children! Why won't someone think of the children? Well, because if you think of them too hard, none of it makes sense. Not even a bit. I was all, "WHAT??? Is this serious? No, it can't be. It is? WHAT?"
-Logic doesn't work in this place.

Here are the list of questions I wrote down while reading this, though I will skip the ones I've asked above:
1) Why does the idea of pregnancy set off a sudden and unconvincing need to be with other people? I know why I would want that but I don't understand why she does.
2) Isn't Cal from a farm? Why, then, is he so damn worried about everything in nature? Why is he so bad at nature, actually?
3) Why has the world run out of mountain lions and swordfish? Why are there so many bears and coyotes?
4) Am I getting an anti-feminism message from this? Frida is supposedly all Woman Power! but makes herself look stupid in that regard. It seems there's an underlying message about the superior health of women who are sexually active, who find domestic tasks to be pleasant, who are submissive helpmates to men, and who have rid themselves of the notion that their opinions matter.
5) Does a person know if carrots are bland if one has been foraging and living off the land for 2+ years? It seems carrots would be anything but bland after a diet of beets, mushrooms, and the occasional rabbit. But what do I know. My palette is highly unsophisticated.

Ok, so, if this is actually a cutting social commentary on how our reliance on technology, our allowance of ease, and our encouragement of monopolies to control all our resources will create a societal breakdown in, what? two or three generations from now, it's an ok story. It shows that people need to understand how to take care of themselves, need to understand where resources come from, how trade works, how things are made and they need to learn to do so before it's too late because otherwise, the world is going to devolve into gated communities for the rich and everyone else will be struggling to survive, dying, dead, or enslaved as menial labor in gated communities for the rich. Oh...hey, wait up. We might be there already.
As a post-apocalpytic survival story, though, this doesn't fly. You're not going to get any helpful tips on what to do if you go homesteading in the California wilderness because LA is dead.