The One with Teenage Angst in Provence

Rebecca Bischoff, The French Impressionist (2016)

I chose this book because I thought it would be an easy read and that the French setting would be nice. You might find it plain weird, but I don’t dislike foreigners waxing poetic with colorful clichés about my own country, especially since French people are always complaining and focusing on everything that goes wrong in our country. I expected something like “A Year in Provence – the teen version”. Talk about wrong expectations.

In this novel, Rosemary is in Nice to learn painting with a French family. At least, that’s the official story, the one she told to her best friend. But not exactly the one she told to her mother, who believes she is in Arizona. And not the one she told to her mother’s boyfriend, who paid for the trip and believes she is in Paris. That much would tell you that Rosemary is not completely straightforward and has her issues.

I’m not sure if this book is sold as a middle-grade, YA or adult book, as the main character is a 15-year-old with teenage angst in full color: full of contradictions, pent-up emotions, wild impulses and lies and schemes all over. It’s hard to sympathize with her, but it’s a brutally honest portrait of a girl at a difficult time of her life, made even more difficult by an overbearing mother and a speech handicap she has. If it’s an adult book (and if you have little kids like me), you just wish that your own kids won’t be like her.

There was many, many things crammed into the story, and I would be tempted to say too many things. Rosemary has a neurological disorder called apraxia of speech, which prevents her from speaking clearly and fluently (the author is a speech therapist so she knows her stuff). There is emotional abuse, grief, theft, disability, friendship, boys, France. I wished the book was more focused, and chose its battles. The cute cover put me under the impression that it was chick-lit of sorts (I had not noticed, in my haste, that the girl has no mouth), and at the end, when all the plot lines were hastily tied up, I couldn’t help but feel that it was all too neat. Rosemary has lied and schemed her way but she had no bad consequences for all this. I couldn’t forgive an especially twisted lie that she came up with right at the end that put me over the edge.

It was a bumpy read, but at least I discovered this disorder that I never knew about and I think it made it worth the try.

PS. I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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