By Jolene Gina Abelarde
Title: Rebel Bully Geek Pariah
By Erin R. Lange
Published by Bloomsbury
No. of Pages: 320
Available at most major bookstores
A stolen police car, four people from different cliques, a whole lot of drugs, a big cup of unrealistic and a dash of heart and you have got Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Lange.
Coined The Breakfast Club meets Breaking Bad, the young adult novel follows Andi, the “Barbie” turned wild child; Sam, the daughter of a drug-addict who chooses to be invisible; York, the ex-athlete who bullies his peers; and Boston, the geek.
The unlikely group find themselves in the woods together when the cops bust a party. Trying to run rather than get caught, they hop into the nearest car they see and take off . . . until they realise the car they took has a trunk is full of stolen drugs – and was a police car.
Told through Sam’s point of view, her night on the run is interspersed with moments from “Before” and “After” parts of her adventure. The reader learns about Sam’s mother and her difficult past, and even though she made some ill-advised decisions made during the course of the book, you end up wanting to root for her to end up in a better place.
However, Rebel Bully Geek Pariah is too slowly paced for its claims to be thrilling, and was far from the “page turner” the minimalistic cover sold. Completely void of the poignancy of Lange’s Dead Ends or the fascinatingly morbid and realistic backdrop of Butter, the book’s characters were inconsistent and one-dimensional. From the get go, Sam says “invisibility is a talent (she) had perfected over the years” and something she wants, yet calls her customer stupid and gets upset when the boy she has a crush on does not know her name.
In fact, the novel’s biggest weakness is its decision to make Sam the narrator: she spends a lot of time in her own head, dwelling on her tragic past and refusing to say or do anything, which would be fine if she was not the supposed protagonist.
The love line in the novel also serves no purpose but to make it even more unrealistic. It was hard to love relationships you couldn’t see happening.
That being said, the book comes with heart and when read in earnest, truly talks about the now seemingly superficial problems we had as teens and underscores the pathos of addictions and its effects on family. While the characters might not be the most solid or relatable, it perhaps reflects the journey we all go through in adolescence to find who we truly are.
Ultimately, Rebel Bully Geek Pariah is not a book for thrills and mystery, but an easy read on the train and a good introduction to the teenage psyche.