Tuesday, November 10, 2015

CLOUDS: Rebounding with a High School Ex, the Tar Pit of Life Decisions.


What even happens in this book?

Flight attendant school...
Clouds follows the story of Alissa’s (from Sunsets) former roommate, flight attendant Shelly, as she deals with her life spectacularly imploding into a cloud of diarrhea. You may remember Shelly from her unique character traits of “having wicker furniture” and “rightfully moving immediately out of her duplex when known stalker Alissa moved in.” When Shelly’s story picks up, she’s dealing with her recent transfer to an airline in her hometown, is living with her parents, and is obsessing about the one that got away… her childhood neighbor/ almost teen fiancée, Jonathan. As Shelly regrets choosing her dream of flight attendant school over locking down a husband pre-puberty, she eventually “escapes” her parents and moves in with her sister Meri (a 21 year old editor at a major publishing firm…sure) on a secluded island in the Pacific Northwest, as she deals with cutbacks at her airline. Eventually, after a montage of bonding, the sisters tire of racing across the island at night in matching white sweatshirts (more on this later) and decide to go to Germany to visit Meri’s old friends and surprise Jonathan at his job at a youth center in Germany.

Shelly hasn’t spoken with Jonathan since he proposed to
her the second they both hit puberty, and she (sanely) rejected him. She decides that now that she’s 23, he was probably the best she would ever find, and showing up unannounced five years after their breakup is a great idea. Except this is a terrible idea, and she is rewarded accordingly by being forced to go on a road trip to a small town in Germany with Jonathan and his...FIANCEE. His TEEN FIANCEE WHO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE TEEN SHELLY. Buwhahahahaha!
Shelly's trip to Germany.
Germany did maintain one spark of hope for Shelly, in that Jonathan clearly still has feelings for her. But alas, Shelly and Jonathan are too boring to ever do anything about their feelings, so Shelly returns back to her island to work on what really needs help, her life. Shelly eventually finds a new career path
, and reconnects with her faith. Conveniently, this happens 10 minutes before she learns that Jonathan’s teen-fiancée has dumped him, and he is now living in a treehouse (owned by Jessica’s husband, EMT Kyle) on the same island as Shelly (there is no way to explain this any better). Shelly and Jonathan run into each other in the most anticlimactic, stunningly blasé reunion I have ever read in my life. But they’re married now or whatever and it’s definitely not because Shelly panicked about never getting married, and decided to retroll for second hand booty.

Wait Whaaaaa?

There’s a lot of questionable behavior in Glenbrook. This is where we judge it all.

Public Service Announcement: A major plot point is that after Shelly refused to be a child bride, her ex Jonathan mailed her a Shakespearean era poem communicating that there was still a chance that their love could be saved. Shelly, unfortunately, was in flight attendant school, and it therefore took her five years to correctly interpret the poem. Don’t use poetry, song lyrics, or movie quotes to communicate important messages kids. Sufjan Stevens is never as clear as you think he is.

This song is called National Bird Day
and is about why you should take me back
So I JUST LOVE how heiress Jessica’s EMT husband (Secrets) is now viewed as this wealthy benefactor despite the fact that...
1. It’s not his money. Everyone in Glenbrook is all like “oh  man Kyle is sooooo generous, he just gives his money away like it’s not even his" when it is JESSICA'S MONEY. 
2. Kyle spends Jessica' money all on orphanages or camps or things that are generous... but also designed to convert people to a religion that Jessica herself converted to about 5 minutes ago. We don’t even know if she has fully recovered from her head injury at this point, and her money is flowing out like the Blood of Christ.
They had to sex it up
for the book cover

Shelly’s sexy outfit for meeting her ex for the first time: A shapeless A-line smock over a long sleeved turtleneck, head covered with scarf. You get it, girl. 

Precious Moments
Our favorite quotes.
Shelly reflecting on her first act of sexual assault: “The only thing that haunted her was her impulsive, aggressive kiss. Never would she have guess she had that kind of fire inside her or the audacity to assault her best friend with such a misuse of her passion.”
Jonathan on his mother: “My mom never even went to college. She found fulfillment in marrying my dad and making a home for him. She molded her life around his.” (Who needs a real person when you can be “Wife”?)

Conspiracy theory:

We tell you what’s really going down in Glenbrook.

Elise: Shelly’s grandma was a member of Hilter’s youth.

Shelly’s grandma has a series of tasks and pilgrimages she wants Shelly to complete on her behalf while she is in Germany, and becomes emotional when she sees a leaf Shelly has brought back from her trip to the Black Forest. As a red blooded American who grew up on Stephen Spielberg movies, I am naturally suspicious of any elderly person who reminisces about the “Vaterland.” Sure, Germany has beautiful forests, and castles and links upon links of delicious sausages. But you know what else they had when Shelley’s grandma was growing up? Nazis. I know when a spade’s a spade and this little old white haired spade is a goosestepping her way to Sunday School every morning.

Jonathan's dream 
Angie: Jonathan proposed to Shelly at eighteen because he couldn’t take his mom with him to college.

Jonathan’s mom is portrayed as the quintessential Christian wife/homemaker as evidenced by her fierce cookie baking game. When faced with the prospect of leaving his mom-slave for college and having to do his own laundry and wipe his own ass, Jonathan panicked, got down on one knee, and popped the question. His grand plan to take a maid with benefits to college with him was thwarted by selfish Shelly and her ultimately stupid career dreams. She learned. We all learned.   

Final Judgement:

Is it worth the $0.01 on Amazon?
Robin Jones Gunn perfectly captures what it’s like to be staying with your parents in the
Yes, Shelly does reminisce
about her wicker furniture.
suburbs thinking “my life is a hot mess” and that sinking feeling of knowing that your already shitty job is sliding out from under you. It was also very fun to follow Meri and Shelly around as they explore Germany. 
RJG is actually a great travel writer, and it’s a shame when her books take place in California or Oregon rather than Hawaii or Europe. Unfortunately, while I really enjoyed the first part of the book, the buildup to Germany and the tension between Shelly, Jonathan and his bilingual teen-fiancée, Act III falls apart in terms of drama. This is interesting reversal because in Whispers and Echoes, the third act romantic buildup is where RJG shines. Still, it was a fun book and reminded me of a lot of the pressure and tension that comes with being in your early 20s but still being considered a spinster hag in the Christian community. Overall I give it 3 out of 5 teenage exes!