Sunday, July 5, 2009

UNDISCOVERED GYRL by Allison Burnett (review, sort of, and CONTEST)

Undiscovered Gyrl (Vintage Contemporaries Orig) Undiscovered Gyrl
by Allison Burnett

August 11th 2009 by Vintage
Paperback, 320 pages
0307473120 (isbn13: 9780307473127)

From the publisher:

Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt is taking a year off before college to find her passion. Ambitious in her own way, Katie intends to do more than just smoke weed with her boyfriend, Rory, and work at the bookstore. She plans to seduce Dan, a thirty-two-year-old film professor. 

It seems like a great idea, an awesome book along the lines of If I Stay or Wintergirls.  Just watch the trailer:

The publisher  continues:

Katie chronicles her adventures in an anonymous blog, telling strangers her innermost desires, shames, and thrills. But when Dan stops taking her calls, when her alcoholic father suffers a terrible fall, and when she finds herself drawn into a dangerous new relationship, Katie’s fearless narrative begins to crack, and dark pieces of her past emerge. 

Sexually frank, often heartbreaking, and bursting with devilish humor, Undiscovered Gyrl is an extraordinarily accomplished novel of identity, voyeurism, and deceit. 

Vintage itself has mounted a "huge, strange online campaign" fueled by social networking as its marketing strategy, complete with its own little army of grassroots publicists.

The biggest problem I have with this whole hoopla is that, while undiscovered gyrl is being marketed as a YA book, it's really an exercise in postmodern reflection that should only be undertaken with discussion and analysis.

In a book group or an English class or with a friend over coffee.

If you like (and understand) J.D. Salinger, this is the book for you.  Allison Burnett definitely seems to be the next Salinger.

I do not at all care for Salinger.

Though it will not be released until August 11, undiscovered gyrl has already caused a buzz in entertainment news because of the alleged reports last summer that Miley Cyrus will play the protagonist - even in the nude (Cyrus denies it as an internet rumor) in the movie version (something I've difficulty conceptualizing.  The movie, not Miley.)

Some bloggers (like Melissa) love undiscovered gyrl, some hate it (Holly is one), some find it disturbing (like Kelly does).  Some aren't sure.  Reviews can be submitted by site users at the original undiscovered gyrl site.

However, I can find few who have really analyzed it.  I'm not ready to do so here because so few people have read it yet.  But I will say that if you need a topic for a paper, the societal perceptions Burnett invokes by using the word "gyrl" is a good place to start.  And that I'm absolutely astonished at the number of people who say they can "relate to Katie."

You may remember that I questioned the validity of a white man writing a black point of view.  Well, how about a middle-aged man writing as a teenage girl?  Yes, that's right.   Allison Burnett is a man.

So much more about the novel makes sense, knowing that.  It shouldn't, I understand.  An author's genitalia have nothing to do with plot and structure and style.  But what I perceived as poor characterization instead is explained by gyrl's publicist, as intentional to a
novel [that] keeps readers guessing as to the identity of its narrator by “putting traditional point of view on its head and playing around with the major identity issues of our age.”
It's the whole point.   Burnett is a precipient interpreter of postmodern life.  To stop at the surface story is to miss the entire point of undiscovered gyrl.

Bottom line? I didn't care for this book, and I can't get it out of my head.  I can't even say that about Catcher in the Rye, which so failed to elicit response from me that I forgot it pretty quickly.  I might decide I like undiscovered gyrl (though I doubt it.)  I need someone with whom I can marinate on it.

So here's the contest:

When I post this article on the undiscovered gyrl site, I'll be eligible for two additional ARCs of the book.  Help me circulate this post and get chances to receive one of them.  I will pass one ARC on to the person who can generate the most traffic to my site and one to the person who submits the best reason I'd want to discuss this book with him or her.  Shameless plugging?  Yes, but I also really, truly think this is a book whose true nature needs to be known.  Think of it as me keeping Starbucks in business, since you'll be headed there for delicious intellectual chats over the enigma that is undiscovered gyrl.

You're responsible for letting me know if someone sent you here, if you share this on any social network, or if you beat it out in smoke signals;  and/or for convincing me you are the right discussion partner for this novel.   Leave comments or email me at aerinblogs AT aol DOT com. 


  1. The book trailer does make it sound interesting!!! It will be interesting to see what I think of it when it comes out.
    Anyways just wanted to let you know that I'm doing a book review on my site.

  2. So I'm one of the few people in the world who also hated Catcher in the Rye. Blech. Never understood what the big deal was either. I must be a peasant. So I'm really not interested in this book at all except I would love to know how it ends.

  3. At face value, the premise sounds intriguing but having you compared to JD Salinger, um, I'm having mixed feelings about this one. Good luck to all who enter this contest!

  4. I just couldnt get past the out of left field ending. It was so infuriating!

  5. Well, I'm a Salinger fan. I teach Catcher, and Franny & Zoey is wonderful, as well. I'll be happy to plug this for you. Fun times!

  6. Hmmm...I really want to read it in part for the awesome trailer, but also because it'd be fun to spar with you since Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books!

  7. I enjoyed your musings on UNDISCOVERED GYRL, and I could not agree more that this book offers a lot in way of discussion. It is not a book that should be taken at face value.

    However, I don't agree with the Salinger comparison. (I also don't always like author comparisons, though they are necessary sometimes, because I often think they oversimplify the voice of different authors.) To each her/his own.

    I couldn't put this book down, and while I don't relate to Katie, I find it one of the most fascinating character studies I have ever read. Whether or not you like the characters is not the measure of whether or not a book is "good" for me. This book is good to me, because I have seen it elicit different responses in everyone I know who has read it: readers are infuriated, intrigued, enlightened, laughing through it, crying through it, shouting "stop it!" through it, etc.

    But everyone I know has the same response: they can't stop thinking about it.

    Great blog!


  8. I just came across your blog through the shewrites blog index, and I read this post. I guess I don't get out much because I'd not heard of Undiscovered Gyrl before, but your post made me curious. I'll post a link to this and see if anyone follows it, but I don't see myself generating you too much traffic. However, I'm very much up for a good discussion. And I can get better, cheaper, coffee than Starbucks ;)

  9. The overall premise sounds really interesting. I like how it's in blog format. That's impressive that it was written by a middle-aged guy, but is the perspective of a teen-aged girl. I will have to go check it out.

  10. Having never been forced to read Catcher in the Rye in highschool, I found myself reading it and loving it as an adult! I think this would be a book I'd enjoy reading, even if the subject may be somewhat disturbing.

  11. The story sounds interesting, but not really my type of book. The concept of teenagers chasing after (or possibly even being with...depending on how the story goes) disturbs me to no end. She is how old, 17? Although, I wouldn't be against reading it for a class, because at least that way it can be discussed.

  12. Just finished writing up my review (posts Sunday) and I wanted to say that I actually liked the ending. Presuming anyone who reads from here forward understands they'll be spoiled ......

    I thought the fact that Katie wasn't Katie or that she disappeared was perfect. Was there ever a Katie? Was it really her mom? Was Katie a fat, middle-aged male playing for the crowd? Avid blog readers will always wonder whether the cart & pony show is real.

    Plus, I adore ambiguous endings. Leaves so much more for the imagination. My review will discuss the voyeuristic nature of the book, the can't look away phenomenon...



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