Reviewed: “The Paper Wasp” by Lauren Acampora

This book is… it is something. A good something, a strange something, a profound something, and a compulsively readable something.

I tried starting it last month and put it down, doubting I’d go back to it. But I picked it up again and I couldn’t put it down, and now I’m left without it because it’s over.

My original struggles with THE PAPER WASP were, I think, because of the sort of second-person narrative. I haven’t read much of that, much of stories told with “you did this…” and “you smiled at me…” It was jarring. But something about it, something about what I did read that first time (up to 7% before I put it down), stuck with me. Like a sort of looming challenge or Perrenian dream (read the book and you’ll get that reference). So I did.

And I was carried away into Abby’s world, a world where she doesn’t quite measure up to… to really anyone else. This is because she holds herself up against everyone else. She’s constantly in search of some way to defeat herself, even under the guise of advancing herself. Good things happen and Abby walks away from them. People are kind to her and she walks away from them. She’s obsessed with celebrity gossip magazines. The irony is that she doesn’t even dream of measuring up, not even in Hollywood where her childhood best friend hires her as an assistant and Abby would rather work behind the scenes of films than in front of the camera. Abby just wants to be. Not even good enough in her own right, but just be.

It’s kind of heartbreaking.

Even as she acts scattered and stalker-y, getting a second job at the acting school where her best friend goes to study acting but avoiding her friend at all costs. Abby still has to keep herself separate, for reasons even she doesn’t seem to fully grasp.

It’s only when she goes home to Michigan to see her long-estranged sister that she finds a purpose of sorts. She finds someone lower than she is, someone who probably would aspire to be her.

The choices she makes after that are not clear-headed. They are not moral and ethical. But they are hers. And, in a way, they are the first choices she makes for herself. It doesn’t make them right, it doesn’t make Abby good.

It makes for an incredible novel.

Read this book if you like reading: unreliable narrators, toxic friendship, second-person narrative, atmospheric contemporaries, Hollywood, stories that make you uneasy

Don’t read this book if you don’t like reading: mental illness, depression, alcohol abuse (including while pregnant), BDSM, immoral choices

(I received a copy of THE PAPER WASP through NetGalley and Grove Atlantic in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

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