Friday, July 10, 2015

Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis

fpo  Wow, Rainey Royal, not even sure where to start with this. It's 1970s New York. Rainey is a fourteen-year-old girl struggling to find her own identity against the backdrop of puberty, art, sexual assault, and friendship. Her biggest obstacle might be a horrible parents. Rainey's mother has abandoned her daughter to go live in an ashram in Colorado. Rainey's father, a famous jazz musician, is more concerned about the fawning students he brings into the house (to do much more than study music) than he is about the physical and emotional safety of his child. Despite careless parents and other harmful adults, Rainey shines. She is beautiful and artistic. She is also rebellious, trouble-making, and sometimes cruel. People are drawn to her and she uses that, not always for good.

Rainey Royal was a quick read. It was also raw and heart-wrenching at times. It started off on a shiny and bright and then dimmed a little towards the end. This was mostly because the perspective shifts from Rainey from those of her friends in the later stories. (Rainey Royal is a novel told through a series of short stories.) We get to see a different perspective of Rainey through her friends, but frankly their adoring takes just aren't as interesting as Rainey's own perspective.

I have to mention how I came across this book because I think it symbolizes the pull Rainey herself has. I was walking through the bookstore, just browsing because I needed a walk and more often than not a walk through my neighborhood leads to a stop at the bookstore. I picked up a lot of books and put them down again, because I had just ordered a couple books and my credit card needed a rest. I picked up this book and put it down, like all the others. The next day at work I couldn't stop thinking about this but couldn't remember the title or the author just that it was the "L" section because I had been looking for another book by an author whose name started with the letter "L". I entered dozens of search terms into Google and other databases trying to identify a book about the daughter of a jazz singer in 1970s New York who has a sketchy best friend. Several hours later I finally found Rainey Royal. Something about this book just wouldn't let me walk away.

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