September 3, 2012

Chopsticks: A Psychtember Suggestion

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

"After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song "Chopsticks."

But nothing is what it seems, and Glory's reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it's up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along...
" (from Goodreads)
Chopsticks is very different from the type of book I normally read, seeing as it's composed mainly of images (like photos and drawings) in a scrapbook style, with a few words (in letters, notes, IM conversations, and quotes) throughout. Since I don't think I can really give it a rating with my usual system or discuss the psychological accuracy, instead I'm just going to give you a few of my thoughts on it:
  • I was impressed by how well the authors were able to convey the story, emotions and mood without using very many words, although I did have to flip back and forth a bit to try to figure out what was going on.
  • It's really cool the way it starts to creep up on you towards the end that something's wrong here, with previous details taking on new meaning and giving it an unsettling twist.
  • The ending is a little confusing, but I think it's intended to be somewhat ambiguous. The way information is conveyed in the first part of the book raises questions that are never answered (spoilery examples, highlight to read: the drawings originally signed by Francisco Mendoza are later signed by Glory...did she hallucinate his signature? What about his notes — did she write them herself in different handwriting, or did she imagine them?), which is admittedly a little frustrating. I suspect some readers might feel a bit "cheated" because the mystery isn't really guessable from the presentation of images and information we're given. 
  • Unfortunately we're not given enough explanation for me to be able to assess how accurately the psychological side of things is approached. It's clear that Glory's mom's death has had a lasting impact on her, fueling her obsession with the piece "Chopsticks." The more serious problem Glory has involves major spoilers: Glory seems to be psychotic, constructing this guy "Francisco" from her own imagination, and creating the story of their relationship. The details — how long she's been psychotic, what triggered her to experience this particular hallucination and delusion — are less clear.
  • I actually stayed up reading this book; it makes you think and hits a depth you wouldn't expect from a book with so few words. It doesn't go into very much detail, obviously, so it all depends on a reader's interpretation, but I think people might underestimate how serious and powerful a book crafted with these mediums can be.
  • Ultimately, Chopsticks demonstrates a really neat way to tell a story. For someone looking for a very different approach to a story about a teen with mental illness, one that is surprising, unexpected and plays with format and medium, then I would definitely suggest they check out Chopsticks.
Note: there is also a multimedia component associated with Chopsticks, in particular an app. My thoughts above are strictly on the book itself, but you can visit the website for more information on the app.

1 comment:

  1. I glanced at this at Barnes and Noble one day but never bought it. I flipped through it and the pictures threw me off lol. This is the second review I read for it now though and I would really like to check it out some time. Thanks sharing :)


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