Tuesday 2 March 2010

Rose Sees Red - Cecil Castellucci

Rose Sees Red
Cecil Castellucci
ISBN 9780545060790

This book blew me out of the water. I quickly became obsessed with it and did not want to put it down. It is set in cold war era New York City, focusing around a girl named Rose who attends a performing arts high school. I was first interested in this book because of Cecil Castellucci's contribution and co-editing of Geektastic. The story runs the gamut of angst of learning to be, of both being and becoming. Yet mostly it revolves around what is friendship, and how do friendships begin and how do they end.

Rose is attempting to understand what friendship is and to herself she says: "What was a friend? Really? Someone you liked. Who was kindred. Who understood you. Who helped you. Who you had fun with. Who accepted you. I realized I had never really had that with anyone. Not even Daisy. And now, every time I thought about being someone's friend, hers was the friendship that haunted me."p.13. I struggle with those questions also. I want to be a good friend and I want good friends. And I too have friendships that haunt me, some I destroyed and some others abandoned, but either way they haunt me. The beginning of the book is Rose trying to evaluate how she lost her best friend and in so doing is looking at their whole friendship and the true meaning of friendship. For Rose was given a choice by her former best friend, either her or dance, and Rose realized she loved dance. "And just like that, it was supposed to be over. But I hadn't grown out of it. It was my morning and evening. It was my breathing in and my breathing out. It was my food and my water."p.15. Rose realized that she loved dance and needed to try to pursue it. And so she does.

Rose also has great insight into who she really is. She states: "I wasn't convinced that I could get into those brainy schools. I was smart, but I wasn't smart like Todd (her brother). I had a different kind of smarts, and that kind of smarts didn't do very well on tests."p.18. Rose has a deep self-understanding and she is trying to figure out friendship. Then she has a day like none before. Rose goes for pizza after school with some classmates. Then she escapes the CIA and the KGB who are following her neighbor, a diplomat's daughter from the USSR. Together this neighbor Yrena and Rose go on a whirlwind night around New York City and to a protest rally to stop Nukes.
Most of the book takes place in under a day. As you're reading you will find yourself unable to put the book down. The story is very well written and captures something of the human spirit. As Rose and Yrena travel through the city with different people from the School or Arts, you will encounter people familiar to you and your life, both in high school and after. The characters are well written and will remind you of people you know or have encountered. The cliques and circles she describes are those similar to those all of us encounter at work and at school, and similar to those described by Arthur Slade in his book Tribes. Rose makes a poignant observation about someone she meets that night and on reflecting on it, it reflects on all of us. "But I noticed that about Free. He might look like he could be on a football team or date a cheerleader, but he had eyes that cared. I bet that was why he wore hippie clothes and the beard. He was trying to distance himself from who he thought the world thought he should be. Were we all like that? Were we all trying to change how we looked on the outside to match how we felt on the inside? Were we all trying to change how people saw us? … And I wanted so badly for the world to see me as a dancer." Castellucci's insight into people and their behavior is wonderful and her novel is refreshing and encouraging. This is a magnificent book, brilliant in concept, insight and execution.

(This book does not come out until August but it was so good I had to start recommending it now.)

Books by Cecil Castellucci:
Boy Proof (2005)
The Queen of Cool (2006)
Beige (2007)
The P.L.A.I.N. Janes (2007)
Janes in Love (2008)
Geektastic (Editor & Contributor 2009)
Rose Sees Red (2010)
Grandma's Gloves (2010)

First Day On Earth (2011)
Odd Duck (2013)
Tin Star (2014)

Stone in the Sky (2015)
The Plain Janes 3 in 1 (2020)


Music By Cecil Castellucci
Twist Her - Nerdy Girl (1996)
Whoever - Cecil Seaskull (1998)

A Visual Bibliography for Cecil Castellucci
Author profile interview with Cecil Castellucci

1 comment:

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