It's hard to gear oneself up to read a book with a title like Beige. Having read the book, I understand the title, but thank goodness Cecil Castellucci is a draw, because otherwise I think that this title would make it a hard sell. That said, Beige is entertaining and highly quotable, with a completely real setting. I read it in one sitting.
Beige is a coming of age story about fourteen-year-old Katy, who lives an orderly, quiet life with her mother in Montreal. She barely knows her father, an aging punk rocker called The Rat. However, when her mother gets a chance to go to Peru to do archaeological research, Katy is sent to stay with The Rat in Los Angeles.
Katy is soon nicknamed Beige by the daughter of one The Rat's band-mates, because she is so bland. She is a fish out of water in the LA punk music scene. Katy doesn't even like music (to her father's horror). Her resistance to music is, I think, a symbol of her resistance to and fear of life. She pretty much stands around (trying not to come into too close a contact with the scruffy people around her), waiting for her time in LA to be over. But slowly, as her trip lengthens, the people and the music start to find their way into Katy's heart, and she is changed because of it.
Katy/Beige has a distinct personality. She loves books, and she has entire conversations in her own head about what she would say to people, if she only had the nerve. She's almost on the autistic spectrum, in her dislike of noise and clutter. For example, here's her reaction to The Rat's apartment:
"For some people, clutter is OK. They can live amid chaos, but not me. For me, piles of things on top of things scattered on things equals me not being able to think straight. A mess actually hurts me. Physically." (Page 13)
And here is Beige's reaction to the LA punk music scene:
"It's not that funny. Or, maybe the conversation is funny for aging punk rock people, but not for me. It's boring. I can't even follow the conversations they are having around me. I have no in. No common ground. There is no thread for me to hang on to, which makes me zone out." (Page 39)
Hasn't everyone felt like that at a party at some point? One more scene, from the next party.
"She's clapping. I can't believe she actually wants to be here. She wants to mingle with these kinds of adultescents. She wants to be listening to this stuff, this noise. It's not anything I have ever heard on the radio. It's not easy to listen to. It's scary. I like music to be in the background. Not in my face." (Page 50)
I like "adultescents", even if Beige sounds a bit like the Grinch. The Rat, on the other hand, seems to need noise, whether music or conversation, at all times. The two are an unlikely match. And yet, you can see each one's perspective. Lake, the girl who christened Katy as Beige, is also a difficult match with Beige, prickly and demanding and completely absorbed in her band. But their friendship works nevertheless.
Beige is a quick, engaging read that I think teens will appreciate. The punk rock references are fun and authentic. And the feeling of alienation from one's surroundings, well, isn't that a common teen trait? I enjoyed Beige, and I think that teens will, too.
Publication Date: June, 2007
Source of Book: Won it in a contest at ALA in June, 2008
Other Blog Reviews: GoddessLibrarian, Barbara Gordon, Tea Cozy, ProperNoun.net
Author Interviews: Life, Words, & Rock 'N Roll, Sequential Tart
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.