Thursday, January 24, 2013

Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki

Emiko's best friend moved last year and now she's trying to fit in with the other girls at school. What ends up happening though is a growing feeling of alienation that pushes Emiko to find connections with performance artists who live on the fringe. As Emiko develops a growing sense of self, she also starts performing by reading the diary of an alienated wife that she babysits for. As the story progresses Emiko must decide whether or not she's reflecting her own self or just a reflection of the people she has grown to care for.

I really wanted to love this. I thought the themes were really strong, the setting was fantastic, and the portrayal of underground performance art was new. I unfortunately thought the characters were rather weak. Well maybe that isn't the best explanation, the characters didn't live up to the rest of the story. They were a bit under-developed and underwhelming. Emiko never seemed to really find her sense of 'self.' I liked her development as a performer and her growing confidence in that, but I didn't really feel like that would necessarily mean that she had a new definition of self. Which is the payoff that I was searching for and never ended up getting. Emiko found a group of people that she connected with, but instead of defining herself she let the group define her which I think kind of undercuts the entire arch of the story.

Then there was the subplot of the family that Emiko babysits for. I found this to be quite fascinating and kind of wish more time was spent with it. I thought that the ambient tension and frustration that the family was going through was quite poignant.

To sum up:
  • I liked the artwork
  • I loved the setting
  • I liked some of the secondary characters
  • I thought the main character was weak
  • I thought the themes were underdeveloped, though well chosen
Overall this book was only okay, it had the potential to be great but never reached the heights I wanted it to.

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