The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall

“That was why it was so weird when she left, out of all the adults. Most of them taking off wouldn’t have been that strange in the grand scheme of things. But my mom, Juniper, she was the one who knew about the world and seemed to care about our well-being the most. Why would the one who was the most invested drop off the face of the earth and never come back, or call, or write, or somehow check in to see if we were okay? Didn’t she ever wonder how we turned out?

Sometimes I fantasized that she had hit her head and had amnesia, like on the soaps I watched with Granny after school in grade eight. Or she had a brain worm and it made her crazy and she thought her name was Brenda and she worked in a shoe store somewhere in Alabama. Maybe she got lost in the woods and became feral.

Then one day in my first year of university I was on the subway, and a kid was screaming and throwing his food on everyone and the mom was shushing uselessly at him, and I thought Oh, oh, this is why. Being a parent is actually a black hole of never-ending sorrow and boredom and maybe that’s why she left.

Forthcoming release “The Spectacular” by Zoe Whittall is a brutal, rock and roll kind of a book. Missy, born on a commune and abandoned by her mother when she is a tween, is a bit of a dirt-bag rockstar, unable to truly connect or commit to anyone or anything in her life. She is a Riot Grrrl, a Carrie Brownstein-esque character who is simultaneously hard to love and hard to resist.

Summed up in one word, “The Spectacular” is a novel about wanting. In fact, want is likely the most ubiquitous word in the book. Missy bares her wanting shamelessly, achingly, and with a rawness that almost hurts.

“At twenty-one, I wanted the richness of the present moment, and that was all. Why not be loud about it? Being demure is for suckers.”

“I want to cross the country with the freedom of any man my age. I want to experience every spectacular, vivid detail of life on the road, to play our best songs, to jump out into the crowds, to fly on top of their outstretched fingers, to kick one leg in the air during the endless final solos, to be grabbed and kissed by the life of it all, to have a great time.”

“I want to look like a girl, but I want the freedom to act like a guy. This makes me unlikable, but have you ever remembered a likable person? Especially likable, easygoing women. Women who say things like whatever you want is fine and agree with everything men say. They’re a dime a faceless dozen. They blur together.”

Zoe Whittall writes with a brutal rawness and a simplicity of language that pulls no punches and has little patience for poetic embellishments or rose-colored glasses. If the punk scene, struggles with identity, or the rockstar life are motifs that call your name, this book is for you.

Thank you to Ballantine, an imprint of Random House, for providing an Advanced Readers Copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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