As part of our ongoing collaboration with the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, our writers have accepted the challenge of reading and reviewing pre-publication review copies of highly anticipated young adult literature. The reviews are posted here for our readers, but also will be sent to the Book House where they will hopefully be used to inform customers about the books they may want to purchase.We will try to publish one review a week for the spring.
The reviews contain spoilers, so be forewarned!
In Search Of
by Ava Dellaira
Published March 2018
401 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
In Search Of follows the story of Marilyn and Angela through a split timeline taking place in the present day and in 1999. Marilyn is a young, seventeen year old girl in Hollywood. Haunted by her mother’s desire for her to become a famous model, Marilyn wants nothing more than to choose her own future in photography. When she meets her neighbor, James Bell, her life is forever changed. Angela, on the other hand, is Marilyn’s daughter. Her part of the story is told in the present. Growing up without a father, she decides to find her father’s side of the family. Throughout the novel, we watch as the two timelines develop and come together to create a literary masterpiece.
Major characters are the backbone to any ground-breaking novel. Marilyn lives in both timelines in the story. In the present day timeline, she is Angela’s mother. She is a strong woman with many secrets that she attempts to hide for her daughter’s own sake. In the other timeline, Marilyn is seventeen. She lives with her mother and her uncle who is frequently drunk and abusive towards Marilyn and her mother, Sylvie. Ever since she lost her father, her mother has forced her into modeling in hopes of making money and living out her mother’s dream of fame. “As a child, perhaps Marilyn believed in Sylvie’s dreams of a better place, but by now, she’s given up on ever walking through the door in her mother’s fantasies. She holds tightly to the thought that it’s only another year until she’ll be eighteen, moving away for college, beginning a life that belong to her” (16). Marilyn wants nothing to do with her mother’s dreams. Her dream is to become a photographer and move far away from Hollywood. She won’t let anything come in the way of her dreams. Until a boy named James Bell comes into the picture. He changes her life in ways that she couldn’t imagine. Now, she must learn what it means to truly love and trust; all while planning for her future. How will James Bell fit into her future of being a photographer in New York City?
Angela is Marilyn’s daughter. She is mixed race, living with only her mother. She wonders about her father, but her mother always avoids talking about him at all. When Angela finds a photograph of her mother and father from when they were very young, she can’t stop thinking about it. Finding out that her father had a brother, she makes it her mission to go to Hollywood and find her father and uncle and learn more about her family and herself. The importance of finding her father (who she believes is alive, unlike her mother has told her) is rooted deeply in her anxieties of the world and her place in it. She states: “I guess it seems like it’s all kinda pointless anyway. There are more than seven billion people in the world. We walk around feeling like we’re so important, but we’re just this invisible fraction of humanity.” (332). This philosophy that Angela has held for so long is why the mission to find her father means so much to her. It gives her a purpose. However, the people she meets and the things that she learns along this journey will change her philosophy and will change her as a person forever.
James Bell is the boy that Marilyn falls in love with. He changes her world and shows her so much. He has an extremely deep impact on Marilyn that follows her throughout her entire life. Not only does he have an extremely important impact on Marilyn’s life, but she has an important impact on his life as well. She states ”I wish I could get inside that head of yours – I mean, all the way inside of it – but if I can’t, at least maybe I can see through your eyes a little bit.” (273). After meeting each other, James becomes the most important thing to Marilyn, and vice versa. However, things take a turn that end up changing his life and Marilyn’s life forever.
I would argue that the overall theme of this novel is that it is better to have loved and lost, than to not have loved at all. Angela is constantly torn, wondering if her mother’s love for James was really worth it after all the losses that they had to go through. ”If your dad were here, if he could talk to you, don’t you think he’d tell you that love’s worth it, for however long it lasts?” (388). This constant question for Angela is a very well planned and well executed theme for this novel.
The whole idea that it is better to love someone at the risk of losing them, than to never have loved them at all is something that everyone can relate to. Everyone wonders about if some things are worth taking a chance for. This novel argues and proves that point that some things are always worth taking the chance for. Marilyn took the chance on James, even though losing him was an awful thing. Because, out of losing James, Marilyn got Angela. After losing James, Angela was something that Marilyn could live for again.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely a page turner. I really thought that the theme was very insightful and something that anyone could relate to. It is important to have a theme that anyone can relate to. That makes your novel more interesting. The author’s claim to make people want to live life to the fullest no matter the risk was also insightful and fit with the theme in a way that was clear and concise. If I would critique on one thing, I would have suggested numbering the chapters. However, I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read it again. I would highly suggest it to anyone looking for a good book.