By Davina Dang
Art by Namrata Chowdhury
Davina Dang wrote a review on the novel, Sad Girls, by Lang Leav. According to Goodreads, the book is about the protagonist Audery. School is almost out for Audrey, but she begins to struggle with panic attacks are just beginning as she told a lie and leads to a death of her classmate, Ana. Things starts to spin out of control as she meets a boy named Rad who could turn it all around. “But will their ill-timed romance drive her closer to the edge?” Read Davina’s review on her honest opinion on Sad Girls!
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
So naturally I was excited when the news of her debut novel was released to the world; what would it be about? Could a poet become a bestselling novelist on the first try? These were but a few of the questions running through my mind. I was immediately drawn to the premise of the book. The lie, the scandal, hell even the title that screamed ‘teen angst’ drew me in. I drank in the words on the first page, eager to find out what this huge secret was and how it would drive the narrative.
I had so much hope – maybe too much – in her undeniable ability to paint words into art. I wanted to so badly like ‘Sad Girls’ that I questioned my own reaction to this book.
Unfortunately, I was bitterly disappointed.
My main problem is Leav’s protagonist, Audrey. She is unlikeable in every way, coming off as callous, ungrateful and narcissistic. From the get-go, Audrey’s actions destroyed the lives of the people around her. The lie that she told – lying about witnessing her classmate sleeping with her dad – ends up with the victim of her lie (Ana) supposedly committing suicide, the destruction of Ana’s family and her best friend Candela’s downward spiral into substance abuse. Leav offers no explanation as to why Audrey spread the lie in the first place. Did she create such a horrific lie because she was bored? It’s hard to sympathise with Audrey when she recounts her growing anxiety and panic attacks as a result. Leav may have thought that her declining mental health was her way of expressing remorse, but it’s wholly insufficient.
Her actions show she holds no guilt for the things she does. She ruthlessly cheats on then dumps her long-term boyfriend for Rad when they reconnect, frequently alluding to her belief that they are ‘fated.’ When she tells Rad about the lie, he leaves her and she mentally falls apart. Her behaviour is portrayed as that of a lovelorn teenager but in actuality it’s unhealthy, verging on toxic. Quite frankly it’s dangerous as Leav’s target demographic leans towards the younger generation, a mostly impressionable group of people. Her background as a poet may call for the romanticisation of anguish, but in this context it’s damaging.
Audrey even goes as far as to emotionally abuse her own mother, weaponising a past affair against her. When her mum warns her about how spending too much time with Rad may look to other people, Audrey spits that she’s “trying to turn it into something that it’s not. Maybe you’re projecting your own guilt onto me” adding “at least we kept your dirty little secret to ourselves.” How are we as readers meant to side with a protagonist that has abusive tendencies?
Yet that isn’t even the worst of it. Audrey becomes an irredeemable character towards the end of the book when she commits the ultimate act of treachery – she abandons her grieving best friend (whose boyfriend had died trying to warn Audrey of Rad’s killer secret), her family and hometown to jump ship with Rad. As she learns of Rad’s secret – that he’d actually killed Ana in a fit of rage – she recoils in horror only to realise that she “couldn’t ignore the love that was there, pulsating with a life of it’s own, pulling us closer and closer, blurring the lines.” By far this is the most nonsensical plot twist I’ve had the displeasure of reading. Audrey’s reaction is not typical of a normal sane person who’s just discovered her boyfriend is a murderer. She decides in her moment of “clarity” to flee with Rad, ghosting her “bewildered and begging” friends who she couldn’t give answers to in fear of exposing Rad. To paraphrase – she leaves her friends with no explanation despite the fact that her friend literally died trying to protect her – for the guy who’s not only lied to her over the course of their entire relationship, but has isolated her from all of her loved ones.
She justifies her actions by saying it was a ‘necessity’ to leave with Rad because “[the lie] nearly drove us apart, but instead it had bound us to each other like a blood pact. It was a blank canvas – the chance to start all over again.” But who says she deserves that chance to start all over again after the pain and hurt they’ve both caused? This idea of destiny binding them together crops up again at the most inappropriate moment and is infuriatingly ridiculous to even comprehend. It’s not fate that drove Rad and Audrey to this point, just extremely poor decisions and poisonous personality traits. The book is meant to be a teen/young adult ‘coming of age’ tale involving some sort of self reflection but Leav falls flat – Audrey puts in zero effort trying to better herself, showing no attempt at transforming her attitude or maturing in any way. It could even be argued that she becomes an even worse version of the person she was before Rad.
As a reader, I was incredulous to see that in Leav’s world, a couple could get away with murder and have their happy ever after.
The way in which Sad Girls is written in general detracts from the serious nature of the plot. Leav’s ability to describe is invaluable in her poetry and prose but becomes grating only a few pages in. For example: “it felt like at that moment, every snowflake in that field was a teardrop and the whole world was crying for her” or “Rad’s face filled my mind in the same way a camera lens brings a blurry image to focus.” What person would talk or even think like that? This disconnect from reality seems like Leav’s way of exploring the dreamlike romanticisation of ‘true love’ yet it reads as nothing more than teen angst.
Leav’s venture into novel writing was nothing short of a train wreck, from her narrative tone to the limpness (or general unpleasantness) of her characters. I haven’t read her latest novel Poemsia in fear of it somehow being worse than Sad Girls. But I sincerely hope that her readers enjoy her latest offering.
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