Monday, August 6, 2018

Review: Smothered

Smothered Smothered by Autumn Chiklis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Lou Hansen is a recent graduate. She was one of the top in her class at Columbia, and she just needs a short break until she finds the right opportunity. So she does what any Millennial/Gen-Z person would do—move back in with Mom and Dad. What Lou experiences during this time is a romp in ridiculousness.

Before you start reading this book, a few tips:

Be in a really good mood before you start this book
Be a person that has never once had to worry about money
Channel your inner Quinn Morgendorffer

If you can't do any of that, please don't choke on your Ramen, because this book will make you experience involuntary eye-rolling every few pages.

The major problem with this story is that in a few ways, I think many people can relate to Lou, but it takes a serious turn after that. She doesn't want to spoil her relationship by telling her parents about Theo and letting them force their judgments onto it. And yes, many of us have a mother who can be overbearing, especially when they think they are right when they give you demands disguised as advice. But never in my life have I met in person someone so shallow and vain as Mama Shell. From the beginning of the book straight through to the end you wonder how a person like Lou could have grown up in a house without woman without turning into a mini-Mama.

Except... after she spends more time at home post grad, you realize that Lou recognizes the symptoms in others, just not in herself. She devalues all of her achievements because her mother, her mother's friends, her peers, and her little sister don't think those are the most important things in life. Instead, Lou should be seeking out a cute doctor to date, losing 5-7 pounds, getting plastic surgery and making herself totes popular on social, obvi. These unnecessary pressures put on Lou have either changed her significantly in a short amount of time, or she never really was the person she presents at the beginning of the story. It wouldn't matter if she graduated third or dead last in her class—a degree from Columbia would have prepared for Lou more than the art of list making.

The other major flaw in this book (if you are picking up an ebook version of it) is that in Lou's story, she includes an awful lot of footnotes that are probably supposed to add to the charm of her wit. With an ebook, there's no way to easily flip to this section to read them, so by the time you get to them, you've forgotten the context. Who wants to read a page and a half of footnotes that have no meaning?

There are a few positive aspects to this book. First, it is funny. You may snarl at your book while you are reading about the next selfish, vapid thing that Mama Shell has done to Lou, her family, or the world in general, but when things go wrong, it's like reading about a circus. It's got charm that can lull you into a giggle or two before your teeth start showing again.

The book also includes all different kinds of media, from texts and emails to social media posts. Because this is the modern way we all live, it's refreshing to see the actual messages instead of reading the narrator's interpretation of it. With that said, the rest of it is written in a diary format and doesn't give the story much room to move outside of Lou's own head, which may contribute her looking a lot more like her mother than she ever wanted to be.

As a perpetual Ramen-eater and eye-roller myself, I do find this book shallow and anger-inducing, rather than the fun romp it was intended to be. If I would have read this at a much younger age (13-14), I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more since I didn't have a good grasp on the idea that success is bought just as often as it is earned, and that there are people on this earth who just don't give a damn about anyone but themselves.

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