December 30, 2012

Kathe Koja: "Talk"

Title: Talk [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Kathe Koja [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary
Year: 2005
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Honest, emotive, and most of all, gorgeously written.
Cons: Could have been longer and more detailed, characters-wise - though still we get to know them enough. Leads first-person voices blur into each other a little sometimes.
Will appeal to: GLBTQ fiction lovers of course, but pretty much anyone who values staying true to oneself and standing up for what ones believes in. And, last but not least, anyone who's a sucker for beautiful, poignant prose.

Blurb: Kit Webster is hiding a secret. Carma, his best friend, has already figured it out, and pushes him to audition for the high school play, Talk. When he's cast as the male lead, he expects to escape his own life for a while and become a different person. What he gets instead is the role of a lifetime: Kit Webster. In the play, Kit's thrown together with Lindsay Walsh, the female lead and the school's teen queen. Lindsay, tired of the shallow and selfish boys from her usual circle of friends, sees something real in Kit - and wants it. But Kit's attention is focused on Pablo, another boy in school. The play is controversial; the parents put pressure on the school to shut it down. And when Kit and Lindsay rally to save Talk, they find themselves deep into a battle for the truth: onstage, and inside themselves. (Amazon)

Review: (Well, first off, a little premise. I'm currently waiting for twelve books, some new some not, to be delivered by a web bookseller. Among them, the notorious last installment in Jeri Smith-Ready "WVMP series" I've been blogging about lately. While I was waiting for said book, I thought I'd shared my thoughts on all the previous ones in the series with you...but I've been reminded that this is primarily a YA blog, so I decided to put my vamp DJ friends on hold and go back to a teen book instead. I also picked something different from my aforegoing stuff, and here goes...).
This is really a very small book - around 130 pages. It basically revolves around a group of high school seniors staging a play called "Talk", by the (fictional) author Lawson Shoals, and dealing with obstructionism on behalf of a group of adults and the very school board. Also, we follow the two leads - gay-in-the-closet Kit and queen-bee Lindsay - coming to terms with their own lives with the help of said play. A pretty simple and even common canvas in itself, on which Koja manages to paint an engrossing, distinct masterpiece
The thing that makes a winner out of this one is the gorgeous prose. Kit and Lindsay's voices alternate, chapter by chapter, in a stream-of-consciousness form, often beset with broken lines, and are interspersed with fragments from the play. The only complaint I have about this is the odd similarity those voices seem to bear sometimes, though the two characters couldn't be more different. Kit is sweet, insecure, torn between the need of coming out of his closet and the desire of escaping from himself. Lindsay is self-centered and ambitious, unable to see her own faults, though she does recognize those in the members of her social circle. Both seem to find what they're looking for in the play though, even if their reasons are completely different. [...]

We follow Kit while he struggles to find the guts to step up and let his crush Pablo know how he feels about him. Carma, Kit's childhood friend (did you notice gay characters always have a best female friend?), supports him through all this, always challenging Kit to do more than he would feel comfortable with. Still, Carma is the main reason why Kit tried for the play - though in the end he did it because "I wanted to lose myself in a play, didn't I? become someone else? And then I turned into me for real. Isn't that weird?". Rehearsal after rehearsal, Kit feels the fire, discovers his acting skills and shapes himself into a stronger person. On the other hand, Lindsay sees acting like something that can guarantee her a permanent spotlight - a status thing mainly. Bored with her shallow social circle (it's a pity she's not as insightful about herself), she's trying to land a life-long leading role - and in the meantime, begins to slowly fall for Kit, after recognizing his talent. What Lindsay doesn't understand, apart from the obvious (i.e., her crush being gay), is that, while Kit's passion and talent are genuine and deep-rooted, her own strength and fire are all on the surface, or misdirected at best. Despite all this, Kit can see Lindsay's talent and is inspired by it, while Lindsay seems to burn from an authentic fire for a while, in turn inspired by Kit.
In the meantime, some philistine parents turn against the play (essentially because of its true-to-life nature and its claim to freedom), and the school board cancels it, causing a riot not only among the students, but among part of the adults too. While the kids fight for their freedom (and the play is mirroring life more and more), both Kit and Lindsay's worlds collapse, for similar but opposite reasons. In the end, only Kit will learn a valuable lesson from all this, even finding love in the process.
Like I said, this is a pretty simple story, and could have made for a classic (or not so classic, what with Kit being gay, but still) high-school-crush read. Even the coming-out theme and the play controversy are not great news in themselves. But the way "Talk" (I mean the play) intersects the characters' reality, and the wonderful, poetic prose, give at least a couple of additional stars to this one.

For quotes from this books click here.
For more Contemporary books click here.

Talk original cover, 2005


  1. I like the idea of this book, and although fantasy/dystopia are my preferred genres, I read a bit of everything and am willing to give this a go! The fact that you described it as 'gorgeously written' also makes me want to get my hands on this! Can I just add, how the lovely green and orange background reminds me slightly of mangoes (in a good way)! I love mangoes, and so that's suddenly made me love your blog even more!

    1. I don't go much for contemporary myself, but some books are simply little gems that can't be ignored. You won't be disappointed, I'm sure.
      LOL @ the mangoes comment :). This background was actually called "Pumpkin" or something like that, but I agree. Glad you love it - I wanted something colourful but tasteful...hope that's the case. Plus, it seems like it's not only tasteful, but even...tasty! :D


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