Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ferocity Summer by Alissa Grosso

Title: Ferocity Summer
Author: Alissa Grosso
Publisher: Flux Books
Release Date: May
Pages: 289 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: From the publisher via NetGalley

Ferocity SummerWhat happens when the only escape from crushing despair is betrayal?

It's the hottest summer on record in New Jersey and soon Scilla Davis must stand trial for her involvement in a deadly speedboat accident. With the possibility of conviction looming, life seems empty, unreal, and utterly hopeless. Watching her best friend Willow destroy herself with drugs and booze is especially painful. Yet Scilla can't manage to wrest Willow--or herself--from a path of self-destruction.

With a new drug called Ferocity sweeping the nation, an FBI agent is eager to make a bust. He offers Scilla a way out of this nightmare. But is she willing to betray her own drug-dealing boyfriend?


Seventeen and soon to go on trial for vehicular manslaughter, Priscilla "Scilla" Davis dreams of being able to escape her small-town life, her mother, and everything she has done wrong. Her best friend is slowly destroying herself with whatever drugs she can find and passive Scilla is pulled along for the ride. Romantically, Scilla is torn between feelings for two men and a woman, and then there is that FBI agent who wants to make a big drug bust with her help... The girls are pulled deeper into a drug operation and an accident not unlike the one that messed up their lives in the first place may end up being what can set them on the right path or shove them into oblivion.

The main character Scilla is never to be mistaken as a nice person. She routinely calls her friend a slut, blames her life for her problems and then tries to say she's not trying to do that shortly after dong so, and is so maddeningly passive about her life that I was about to scream. But least the novel isn't overly exploitative or offensive about her bisexuality. A whole lot of nothing goes on because of both her passive personality and the pacing and Scilla's narrative voice just doesn't have the pull to make up for that.

But this is a book about dysfunctional, imperfect people, right? We're not necessarily supposed to like them and agree with everything they do. For some of them, it can be hard to work up even a little sympathy for them. This foray into the world of some very complex people would perhaps have met greater reception with me if the text didn't support Scilla's ideas that passive people floating along with someone else's operations are doing nothing wrong and that doing something terrible like dealing a drug that kills someone is okay because if you didn't, someone else would have.

These ideas and the textual support given to them through the outlooks of other characters and the eventual outcome of the novel are problematic. In the eyes of the legal system, gears like Scilla and Willow are as guilty as the overall weapon that is Craig's drug operation  because they helped it run. Giving someone drugs instead of passing it up and letting them find someone else to get it from makes you the guilty party instead of whatever other person would have done it. Many of the ideas Scilla has are wrong and many of them are eventually shown as such, but this is probably the most problematic part of the novel and nothing is ever done about it.

Scilla's personal growth from the beginning of the novel to the end is tremendous, but it's not fully convincing and that weakens the novel as a whole. I can see Scilla becoming friends with someone just like Willow and reverting to her old self in an instant. She never reflects on how she has treated her mother (who is not the best person herself, but she deserves much better treatment than she is given) and continues to slut shame someone who is supposed to be her friend throughout the novel. Seriously, what is wrong with girls having sex? What? Why does attention constantly have to be brought to it and why must they be made fun of for it?

Ferocity Summer had great potential as a study of some very dysfunctional, hopeless people who make a lot of mistakes, but the wrong approach to a few angles and unconvincing character growth on Scilla's part, not to mention some serious slut shaming, make the final product a shadow of the great book it could be.

2 stars!

What am I reading next?: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton