Description: Devastated by her parents’ decision to split up, pressured by her boyfriend to have sex, and saddled with a case of chicken pox, fifteen-year-old Keek finds consolation in her beloved, well-worn copy of Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.”
Review: And Then Things Fall Apart is an intricate character sketch of a teen watching her world fall apart around her and unable to gain any control over any aspect of it. Keek is under house arrest due to chicken pox at her grandmother’s house. She journals her thoughts, connects her life to one of her favorite books of all time, Sylvia’s Plath’s The Bell Jar, to explore her own thoughts, feelings in hopes of making sense of what they really mean on her grandmother’s old typewriter.
Keek’s words and emotions flow onto the page. She neither writes in prose nor in verse, but mixes many different types of writing forms that best illustrate her frustrations and feelings. She also compares her life to that of Plath’s protagonist, Esther in The Bell Jar. The connections aren’t over the top nor do they match exactly, however, they do convey the same spirit and are given enough context which will help readers understand even if they aren’t familiar with Plath’s work.
Keek’s voice is unique, real, snarky at best, making her an instant likeable character. Her problems with her boyfriend, feeling sexually inexperienced yet curious about her own sexuality as well as her family drama make Keek approachable. I couldn’t help but feel as if she were in the same room talking to me as I read the book, a trusted friend who is ready to vent and needing a confidant. Not only is she serious, she is also quite funny and quirky, making jokes and even at times sounding delirious from being sick and stuck inside a house with her grandmother, her father living in the basement, and no means to contact the outside world except a land-line phone.
Arlaina Tibensky’s debut novel makes us realize why some of us love to read: to find ourselves somewhere in our favorite characters and books, to know that we aren’t alone in our own troubles. Rarely are authors able to make ‘stream of conscious’ writing successful and not forceful, but Arlaina Tibensky is able to create a world for Keek in which she is given complete freedom to explore every detail nook and cranny about her life. Readers who enjoy character introspection and experimental writing will surely enjoy And Then Things Fall Apart.
If you like this book try: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner or Paper Towns by John Green