Imagine a coming of age story in which the MC is a 12-year old girl going through the beginning stages of puberty. All of the meanings of the acronym FINE, described as Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional are simply part of that transition into adolescence. Now add in the descent into madness from the movie "A Beautiful Mind" and you may start to understand the serious nature of this story.
It comes laden with a series of life lessons, and makes the reader at times cry, and other times scream in joy for the MC. Some of the life lessons make me believe every single preteen girl needs to read, at the very least, a redacted version of this story. Others make me think that anyone who is raising a child needs to read this, if only to learn the lessons about parenting. What lessons about parenting could a 12 or 13-year old teach? You might be surprised!
For plot, I give this a solid A+, a 9 on my scale. For technical quality, the same. Was the work perfect, technically? No, there were a few minor mistakes, but some of that may be attributed to English in the UK versus English in the US. For appeal, I want with all my heart to give this a 10, but I really don't know if my mind could take that journey through the story if I read it again. It truly is that disturbing if you immerse yourself into a story the way I tend to.
The story is extremely powerful. The few sexual scenes are, with the exception of a rape, all understated. The MC is brilliant, with the ability to have insights that are very, very advanced for her age. When decisive action must be taken, she proves she is a hero. I look forward to reading the remaining books of this trilogy.
Not sure why I didn't start reviewing earlier. What a wonderful opportunity to both thank BarBar for an amazing story - set of stories in fact - and to encourage anyone who hasn't read the Bec books yet to immediately cancel your plans for the next three days or so and get right into them.
I'm a middle-aged professional. Pretty dull stuff, very ordinary inasmuch as anyone is. What BarBar's done with the Bec tales is incredible: I've become fascinated with an artistic, 'differently brained' 13-year old girl and the American middle-school, middle-class world she inhabits. From the beginning of the story, from the very first page, I was totally gripped by the remarkable characters that rise fully formed from the screen and introduce themselves as richly featured, nuanced and at times hilarious human beings. Bec's mum is one of my all-time favourite fictional people.
Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. "Bec" deals with one week in the life of Bec Freeman, the week of her 13th birthday and the week that she comes to learn that she has inherited a mental health condition from her mum called Lambrecht's Syndrome. Don't google it; there's no such thing. BarBar's genius in this story is the creation of a sort of dissociative disorder that's got elements of multiple personality, fugue states, anxiety disorders, depersonalisation, the lot. Lambrecht's Syndrome is very completely mapped for the reader, but from *inside* Bec Freeman's experience, as well as from *outside* in the accounts of her mum's behaviour. And we get to ride along with Bec as she struggles to understand what it is that's happening with her.
But that's only half of what the story involves, because Bec's social world is drawn in equally loving and detailed terms. Her relationships with her parents, her sister, her best friend and even with quasi-antagonist Laura DiMartino are all plotted out in thickly-described relief. Perhaps most important is her relationship with her elder brother Dan, the archetypal golden boy (and perhaps the most one-sided character in the story... though to be fair it's a one-sidedness that you end up loving in any case as even he's beautifully sketched out).
Throw into this mix then Bec's burgeoning artistic talent - another inheritance from her mum - and her explorations of her abilities and tastes as she struggles with individual artistic growth in the face of an uncomprehending school art teacher. What have we got? Close to a masterpiece.
Have you ever wished a debilitating mental health condition existed? OK, me neither really - but this is as close as I've ever come!
There are two stories to follow - I've read the next of them, the third was finished last year (2013) and I've been saving it up... the second is as good as the first in many ways (and exceeds it in writing style, even if it's obviously unable to match the startling originality of the first book as it has to keep up some of the themes first explored here), and I'm dreading the thought that the third might be a let-down! I'll get round to it soon...
As you might have been able to tell by this somewhat gushy review, I've become something of a fan of the Bec "Lost in the Maze" universe, and heartily recommend you give it a go too.
Want to do a 'coming of age' story like no other?
BarBar does it with 'Bec'. Invents a neurological syndrome and gives it to a the mom and a twelve-year-old girl and turns them loose to interact with the rest of the family, friends, enemies and several characters in between, and it's all from twelve year old Bec's point of view.
You find out that you LIKE Bec, and you want her to learn and gorw and be happy, but her condition is a hurdle and her mom is a hurdle and it's a long race and there are lots of hurdles to jump or stumble over.
The 'down' side?
Now I have to go read the sequels.
The first thing I wanted to do for this review, was to download a list of adjectives, plus their synonyms and antonyms. I'm pretty sure most of them would apply, so where should we start?
Let's try funny, sad, emotional, uplifting, depressing, intriguing, shocking ... need I go on? I've read novels by mainstream authors that didn't hold a candle to Bec.
The eponymous Bec is insidious, she gets inside your skin, and then you start to wonder. Is she just a teenager going through a particularly difficult puberty? Is she an idiot savant? Is she a genius? Is she just mad as a box of frogs? That question is finally resolved, but the journey to that conclusion is emotionally draining. Once I started to read I couldn't leave this story alone.
So, what does this tell us about the Author? Probably that BarBar is a genius.
If you never read another story on SOL you should read Bec!