Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

Of Deserts and Postcards and Girl Trying To Find Herself

A review of Displacement by Thalia Chaltas, in which the way to find oneself is to lose oneself.

Of Deserts and Postcards and Girl Trying To Find Herself

BOOK REPORT for Displacement by Thalia Chaltas

Cover Story: Float Away
BFF Charm: Yay?
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Your Poetic License Has Been Renewed
Bonus Factors: The Desert, Post Cards
Relationship Status: An Ode To You

Cover Story: Float Away

Hey, is that Kirsten Dunst, floating in the water? Okay, so here (with this new trend that's NOT a trend, ahem) we have the half-face floating, with a partial body submerged. That's three of my least-favorite cover options all together. But, um, I like yellow?

The Deal:

Vera needed to get away. After tragedy strikes her unmindful family, her two best friends seem to abandon her for each other, and it becomes too much for her to take. She sets out on her own to 'displace' herself for a while, (In our house, we call that a 'Manseur', after an old film critic in Boston who would come to watch screeners at the theatre where my husband worked. Whenever the title was mentioned in the film, he would call out "HA! whatever-the-title- was".) in hopes that she can find her place within herself.

BFF Charm: Yay?

I really like Vera's wit and determination. And the girl has no problem with alone time, which is a really important characteristic in a potential BFF for me. Plus, she totally has great big balls to head off by herself and make her own way in the small used-to-be-a-mining-town she ends up in. But I didn't completely get the feeling that I really got to know her well enough to hand over my charm. I think if I could meet her just after the end of this book, we'd become fast friends. My only rule would be that she keep the poetry to herself.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Vera has some nice moments of crushing on Lon, the handsome half-Hopi (Native American boys multiply the swoon times 10!) entrepreneur she starts working for, but not much happens between them in the way of tingles.

Talky Talk: Your Poetic License Has Been Renewed

I think it's no secret that pretty much all of us here at FYA are NOT fans of poetry in YA books. So when I opened the cover to read this, and realized --hold the phone-- that this entire book is ONE BIG POEM (or several poems put together, how do you tell?) I almost put it straight in the discard pile. But then I remembered that not all poetry is terrible. In fact, I married a guy who used to write poetry --really good poetry-- and that there are plenty of poets I've loved to read. So maybe since this book was ONLY poetry, it wouldn't be like the random emo poems placed throughout a story that I skip over when I come across them.

I was pleased to find that Chaltas uses what reads like one long free-form poem to tell a story both heartbreaking and fun. She's silly and crass and despairing. It wasn't a book that I couldn't put down. In fact, it took me about three weeks to finish, but each time I picked it up, I was able to follow the thread of the story easily, and enjoyed reading it a few minutes at a time.

If you really hate poetry, this still might not be the book for you, but if you enjoy it, or are even poetry-curious, this book is a great place to start.

Bonus Factor: The Desert

The sand dunes in Kitty Hawk, NC are about my speed when it comes to sandy places that aren't the beach, but Chaltas's rich descriptions of the heat, desolation and drought painted an amazing picture of the deserts in the southwestern US. And also confirmed for me that I do not want to go there.

Bonus Factor: Post Cards

You guys, I LOVE post cards. I love the ones that make a place look more brilliant than it ever can in every day life. I love the fantastical ones that make no sense. I love that you can send someone a letter that every postal carrier can read, but still put something secret in your words, so they'll never know exactly what you mean.

Vera and her sisters started using the post cards their mother would bring back from her travels to leave notes for each other, and we get to relive some of those sisterly moments through Vera's memory, as well as get to hear some of her secret thoughts as she starts her own diary of sorts with a collection she finds at a junk shop.

Casting Call:

Kirsten Dunst as Vera

Well, this one was easy, since the cover reminded me of her.

Relationship Status: An Ode To You

Words on the page
a story
that is also a poem
I judged before I read.

Shame on me.

So while I might not want
to have this book's babies,
it will take its place of honor
where I can read it
for a few minutes at a time
in the bathroom
next to McSweeny's 'Book of Lists'
and my latest issue
of Lucky Magazine

FTC Full Disclosure: I received this book from Viking. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Displacement is available in stores now.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.