Monday, April 22, 2013

White Lines by Jennifer Banash

Cate is 17 and in the Lower East Side during the 1980s.  Having been removed from her mother's abusive home, Cate is under her father's guardianship, but he's put her up in an apartment of her own, and Cate lives alone and isolated during the day.  At night though, she is royalty, helping to throw the wildest party as part of the New York club scene.  Drugs and alcohol help Cate forget her problems for a time, and she can feel like she belongs.  But Cate is beginning to feel like things might be slipping out of her control, and there isn't anyone she can go to for help.

So first of all, I think kids are going to have trouble with a sense of place.  It never explicitly says what year we're in.  There's lots of references to music I doubt most teens will have ever heard of, with the exception of Madonna, and movies they've never seen.  Will they know we're supposed to be in the 80s?  Clearly it's not present day, what with the lack of cell phones and Internet.  You know what tipped me off about the time period?  Paying for the subway with tokens.  I don't think we can make the assumption that a story about clubs and drug use immediately says "1980s" to a teen reader.  I think it would have been helpful to explicitly say that somewhere.

Cate sure was in a crappy situation.  Her mother is controlling, manipulative and physically abusive and Cate is pretty messed up emotionally.  It seems that her father didn't do very much to protect her.  He divorced her mother and left Cate with her.  When Cate's mother was finally declared unfit to take care of her, rather than taking her into his home, Cate's father thought a good idea would be to let his clearly emotionally scarred daughter live on her own and take care of herself.  Yeah, this sounds like a great plan.

During the day, Cate doesn't really have any friends.  She's always exhausted after being out all night and make it to school infrequently.  Cate has been sent to a school for troublemakers, which separated her from her one childhood friend, Sara.  Cate has been distancing herself from Sara because Sara is clearly worried that Cate's going to wind up dead, and Cate doesn't want to hear it.

At night, Cate dresses up in crazy costumes and puts on makeup and becomes and different person.  She feels confident and beautiful, completely unlike her daylight self.  She loves this feeling and the world of the clubs.  She starts doing more and more drugs in order to capture her carefree feeling.  She has a couple close calls, but she still isn't willing to leave her club world.

Seeing Cate struggle with her emotional issues was sad.  I thought that was well done.  Despite the horrible times with her mother, Cate can't stop from loving her.  It's hard for her to say no to her mother, or refuse to meet her for lunch, even though she knows it's a bad idea.  She hasn't been able to stop wanting her mother's love and approval, even though she knows she'll never get it.  Cate deals with things by shutting herself off from everyone.  She can't hug anyone or tell someone she cares about him.  When she befriends Julian, a boy at her school who seems interested in her, Cate doesn't know how to deal with it.  She feels safer getting involved with her much older boss from the club scene, who she knows doesn't really care about her.

Cate's one actual friend from the clubs, Giovanni, is falling apart, but she can't ask him what's wrong or if he needs anyone.  She's completely shut off, which also makes asking for help extremely difficult.  It takes extreme circumstances that force her to realize how she's shut everyone out to decide she's willing to make some changes.

You'd think that drugs would be a main part of Cate's problems, and Sara is all worried that Cate's going to die, but they were kind of in the background.  Cate does drugs and has some close calls, but the drug issue didn't seem to be all that important to the book, which was kind of weird, I thought.  White Lines was OK.  In terms of books about drugs in the 80s, I think there are better ones, and ones that show what things were like more clearly and do less glossing over.

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