Saturday, July 25, 2009

Once upon a blog

Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett
Here’s a story about a book that I couldn’t put down and made me think of a lot of literary allusions, then threw me through a loop and nearly made me obsessed. It starts like this:
So I get this box of advanced reader’s copies. I looked them over, but none of them seemed particularly interesting, so I set them aside for later and continued on my way. Now, lately I’ve been having a hard time finding something that I want to read. Sure, there are a million and one options out there, but nothing has been catching my interest. I picked up a mystery for the flavor of the month and was getting in to that when for some reason I decided to pick up one of those neglected advanced copies. I started reading. And I couldn’t stop. The format was fresh—written like blog entries. The voice was engrossing—a 17-year old girl who calls herself Katie Kampenfelt and decides to defer college for a year and instead blog about her life, her very, shall we say active life. She sure doesn’t pull any punches when talking about her relationships with men and her penchant for alcohol and cigarettes. Although Katie isn’t the typical sympathetic character, she makes for an interesting character study. Which is what made me think of the popular seduction stories from the 18th century, namely Charlotte Temple, by Susanna Rowson. I think of them as morality tales of girls being seduced away from their righteous, pure lives by men who in the end leave them pregnant and alone. Although this doesn’t really happen in Undiscovered Gyrl, it had a similar feel. Katie leads a pretty tumultuous life, her actions seem like things you would see in an after-school special, and there isn’t much growth within her life—it’s just a very interesting sketch of a very confused girl. It should also be mentioned that Allison Burnett is a dude (not for any other reason than it is interesting and surprising).
Now, as I said, I couldn’t put the book down. I just needed to see what happened next. And you know when you get to a point in a book when you realize there is a lot of things that need to be wrapped up and very few pages to go? Yeah. So something just 180 degrees and remarkable happened at the end. I can’t spoil it, and I feel guilty for even mentioning the end, but there you go. But remarkable doesn’t necessarily mean agreeable. And it left me very unsettled and shocked. Like going from 60 to zero in two seconds. And this is where I got obsessed.
To best explain this point in the story, I must go on a slight tangent. Before “The Blair Witch Project” came out, there was media intrigue and mysterious promotion going on that got me and my brothers hooked. We wanted to learn all about it, and even though we knew it was all fake, we couldn’t help but be drawn into the excitement of it (the movie proved a little disappointing, but what can’t when you’re so excited about something?). So after the break-neck ending of Undiscovered Gyrl, I had to go online and read more about it, to stay in that world for even a little bit longer (or maybe get an update?). When you google it, you'll get a lot of pictures of Miley Cyrus, who was rumored to be chosen to play Katie in a movie. I don't think this is true, but I also think that people like rumors and especially rumors that involve young girlsThe website for the book’s promotion has one of those new-fangled video trailers that are becoming popular. I also learned that the publishers are trying a new form of promotion with Undiscovered Gyrl. You can read the article here, but basically it’s a grassroots type of promoting, but they’ve also created a facebook page supposedly updated by Katie, and a lot of other 2.0 techiness. Although it didn’t sate my hunger for closure, I learned that promoting a book takes a lot of work.
This story ends several weeks after finishing Undiscovered Gyrl. The obsession has waned, but I still want to recommend it. It’s due out in August and we’re definitely getting copies. Maybe after you read it you’ll come up with a story of your own.

check it out for yourself