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Brenda

December 2015

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Brenda

ALL FALL DOWN by Jennifer Weiner

Okay, I'm back. More, I'm in my VERY LAST SEMESTER for my MFA in Popular Fiction. Rejoice!!! I know I am. Now, it's been quite the journey. I've learned so much about popular fiction, encountered amazing new (to me) genres) and (sadly) discovered some genres that I ABSOLUTELY...DON'T LIKE. I don't do -isms in any way, certainly not to offer tacit support of discriminatory mindset of any type with my money. As such, I avoid current Young Adult fiction that displays ageism. Sure, not all does but enough do so, no, I avoid.

A genre I've come to know, and to loathe, is called "women's fiction." (No, ladies, not all women are into treating men like genetic dispensers and walking ATM machines, tossing everything away for IVF treatment, nor obsessed with the "new baby smell." NEWS FLASH! The female experience isn't a fertile womb. (Sacrifice the men in your life as necessary.)

Anyway, to that end, my next couple of reviews will demonstrate my loathing of the above mindset as well as spotlighting two horrifyingly popular books of the above type. (No, Powell's books wouldn't let me sell them back so I may as well get some use out of them, no?)

These books are not for me and (probably) not for many ladies of my generation.So... *drum roll*...here's the first in my (short) Hall of Shame.

All Fall Down, is the same thing I learned from Mr. Mackey of South Park, who gave us the sage commentary of, “Drugs are bad, 'mkay?” For this reader, Allison was an unlikable character. She’s popping Oxy like it was Pez candies and why? Because being a housewife, blogger, mother, and caretaker is so traumatizing. Furthermore, and if that wasn’t repulsive enough to this reader, Allison decides on more than one occasion to drive, child in the car, while under the influence of opiates.

Now, in real life it’s made very clear that’s not to be done. While my experience is only with my one doctor, he made sure to repeat his advisement many times during my visits. (My subsequent pain from a car accident.) If that wasn’t enough, the label on the bottle clearly urges one away from using heavy machinery while under the use of the medication. Yet, in All Fall Down, the reader is urged to somehow find some form of sympathy for the protagonist.

I didn’t buy what Weiner was selling. Decisively, no. However, like the book or not, I could learn something from it if I applied myself to the task, could I not?

MY EMOTIONAL CONNECTION? As hard as Weiner tried, for this reader her Allison character presented as nothing but a “Drama Llama.” A fancy house in the suburbs that she couldn’t (yet) afford to furnish? The horror! Her career is taking off? Terrible! Doing better than husband? Blasphemy! Issues with parents at the end of their lives? Stressful. A difficult child? Okay, yeah, if I had a kid like Excitable Ellie, I’d also be popping Oxy like Pez candies.

SOCIAL CONNECTION? I may be Caucasian, both blinded by and ripe with white girl privilege, but even I noted the absence of Women of Color in Weiner’s book. I recall “LaDonna,” who is identified by my assumption that her name identifies a woman of color. (An assumption, only.) The character “LaDonna” exists in a small scene that has little or no relevance to the GMC of All Fall Down. Three pages of scene, pages 148 to 151 specifically. Another (maybe) woman of color is Nurse No Name of Meadowcrest, described as a, “small, plump, dark-skinned woman”(p 271). These were tertiary characters at best.

WALL-BANGING MOMENT? Page three hundred and fourteen. What happened? That’s when Allison’s mask of a mother confessed to her alcoholism and to causing a car accident in Allison’s forth year, which broke her arm. Why is this a wall-banging moment? Because all that did is give Addict Allison a convenient “out,” also known as a “reason” for her choices and actions. Thus, all the work done by author Weiner is, thus, blown out of the water.

1.  In sum, nothing sympathetic about Allison. However, if a tiresome drama llama was what Weiner attempted to portray then she did a good job building her character. Did I connect with Allison? No.

2.
Surely there were opportunities for Weiner to insert a character of color, of any gender, into her story. But she didn’t. It think it’s obvious that in Weiner’s reality, there are only white people with white issues and white picket fences. Did I resonate with Weiner’s social reality? No.

3. Recovery is based in self-realization and personal accountability. Addicts lunge onto and latch onto any excuse for their addiction-choices. While folding in her mother’s alcoholism may have been a good choice for world- and conflict-building, it zapped any credibility to Allison’s character-building and the personal epiphany needed for an addict’s recovery.

Do I really need to say it?

All Around Fail

Brenda Thatcher, Co-Owner Mystique Books


I wish the book and author buckets of cash and glory, but I also wish them elsewhere.

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