Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Lifeboat Clique

The Lifeboat Clique is a YA dark comedy, perfectly described as Mean Girls meets Life of Pi. While high school can be a dog-eat-dog world, where the meek definitely don’t inherit the earth, and everything feels like it’s life and death, the situation isn't quite so literal as in this at times laugh out loud teen novel.

From the publisher: “Some people might say that Denver has a death wish. Why else would she dare to sneak into a Malibu beach party where she’d be surrounded by enemies? Oh yeah. Croix. Denver never thought in a million years he’d ask her out, but who is she to question this miracle of fate? Well, that isn’t the only surprise fate has in store. During the party a tsunami hits the coast of California, and Denver and a handful of others escape death and are swept out to sea. Of course, one of her fellow castaways is none other than her ex-BFF, Abigail, who can barely stand the sight of her. Trapped on a small boat with the most popular kids in school and waiting to be rescued, Denver wonders what might kill her first—dehydration, sunstroke, or the girl she used to think of as a sister?”

High school wasn’t my finest hour, or maybe it was, but no one knew about it. I pretty much donned my cape of invisibility all four years. As for this 'irreverent yet insightful' novel, it was pretty great. A bright, smart and witty story that perfectly captures teen angst, cliques, and the caste system or social hierarchy found in most high schools. Humor abounds on its pages, but also moments of depth, compassion and sadness, when that ugly thing called loss rears its ugly head.

In The Lifeboat Clique, not only has the author delivered an original premise, unique in its satirical tone, but she's done so with Denver, a charmingly sweet, funny and at times self-deprecating protagonist that you can't help but like. Through Denver's acerbic wit and youthful honesty she shares some universal truths on this common experience; "You are certain when you walk thru those doors, who will talk to you and who will not…you know if you are the hunter or the prey. You know if people think you’re smart or funny or pretty or geeky or annoying or cool or - worst of all – if they don’t think anything about you.” Everyone's experience is different, but in those few sentences, Parks reminds us (or at least did me) of one simple truth - high school was hard, it was so much more than classes, pop quizzes, free periods and gym. If it was only that, it would’ve been easy. It was about fitting in, finding your place, and striving towards belonging in this small community you were inhabiting for four long years.

The Lifeboat Clique is much more though than a teen novel about high school, I'd be doing it a disservice if I characterized it merely as such, because it is equally and most importantly a story about friendship; about navigating those waters that can be fraught with peril, with loyalty, patience, kindness, and understanding. An enjoyable and engaging novel about two friends finding their own way and once again finding each other.