Angry Blonde

Angry Blonde

Today, I’m going to step outside my comfort zone a little by reviewing a novel about a teenage girl and her turbulent relationship with a drug dealer. As I’ve noted before, I tend to gravitate towards fantasy, science fiction and horror stories because these are the genres that I enjoy reading the most. Because of this, I don’t think that I’m necessarily the best qualified to tackle this novel but as the author kindly provided me with a copy in exchange for a fair review, I will do my best.

Angry Blonde was first published in 2014 and is the debut novel of Maria Mroziuk. It is told in first person by nineteen year old Samantha “Wylie” Szabo as she recounts the last two years of her life. After suffering years of abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend, Samantha is forced to move to Staten Island to live with her Grandmother and begins to put her life back on track. Sacrificing her tomboyish former self, she instead assumes the persona of fun-loving Wylie and begins to redesign herself from the ground up. However, things start to go awry when Patrick Chmielewski breezes into her life.

Although she first meets him when he is dealing drugs at a party, Wylie is unable to put Patrick out of her mind. The two quickly find themselves in a passionate relationship and move in together soon afterwards. However, Wylie’s love for Patrick blinds her to his dark side. Patrick is violent, possessive and far deeper involved in the drug trade than she would have herself believe. Soon she finds herself questioning which is more important to her: her friends and family or a life with Patrick.

I should probably begin with a note on tone. The content of Angry Blonde is definitely not suitable for younger teens. It contains heavy drug use and bad language throughout, as well as a few scenes of reasonably graphic sex and violence. Teenagers aged 15 and up will probably be ok with this, but I would not recommend it to any reader younger than this.

I think that my analysis of this text should probably begin with the title. While I feel somewhat bad about judging a book by its cover, I must admit that this immediately put me off. I fully appreciate that this is probably a personal response, but the name Angry Blonde just immediately told me that there was nothing here to appeal to me. Now that I have finished the book, this title confuses me all the more because it does not have anything to do with the story. Wylie is not an especially angry person. ‘Naïve’, ‘confused’ and ‘conflicted’ would be better words that I would use to describe her. I’m really not sure where ‘angry’ comes from.

In case you’re currently having the same surge of distaste towards the title as I did, let me tell you now that it is completely unwarranted. This is by no means a bad novel and I do recommend that you try to withhold your judgement and give it a try.

I will admit that it did take me a little while to get into the story. The first quarter felt rather soulless and repetitive, purely consisting of the same scene repeated over and over again. Generally, there would be a small party, drinks would be had, the dealers would show up and cocaine would be snorted. After this, there would be some kind of drama that would result in someone storming away and Wylie’s friend pool would shrink slightly. These parties continued through the first act until Wylie only had one friend remaining.

This opening section was a real struggle to get through and I had a hard time keeping myself interested in the story but I was rewarded for my effort. After this, Wylie begins to recount the story of her childhood and immediately stole my sympathy.

It is true that a strong character can carry a story. Last time, in my review of Wormwood, I noted that every character was so detestable that I did not care who lived or died. Angry Blonde fortunately did not fall into this trap. My first instinct on reading Wylie’s account was to immediately go into denial. I have been fortunate enough to have had a good life up this point and it was tempting to judge the character against my own standards, thinking to myself that no right minded teenager would ever behave in that way. But that would be a barefaced lie.

We can all think of examples where women have become so down-trodden that they believe in their hearts that they deserve everything they got. There is a point in the novel where Wylie is beaten and is upset that she has no visible bruises, because she thinks that she should be marked to show what an evil person she has been. It takes years of horrible abuse to break a woman so thoroughly and the author never skimps on the details, making use painfully aware of what a terrible childhood Wylie has had. The descriptions of Wylie’s mistreatment at the hands of someone who should have looked out for her are horrible to read, yet they help to give us a deeper understanding of her actions.

Every event in Wylie’s childhood plays a role within the story in terms of shaping the kind of person that she becomes as an adult. Although she is hostile towards her mother for being a poor parent, we see that this behaviour has begun to rub off on Wylie. As her mother escaped reality through her heroin addition, Wylie takes increasingly large quantities of cocaine in order to ease her suffering. There used to be drug PSA that I remember seeing on television that carried the general message of parents who do drugs have children who do drugs and this reflects heavily in the novel. Wylie has grown up trying to justify her father’s actions as a drug dealer and thus begins to inherently feel that there is nothing wrong with it.

Her naïve justification for her actions grows ever more heart breaking to read as it begins to alienate her from her friends. The scene in which Wylie tries to argue that drug dealers are blame free to Kansas, whose brother had died of a heroin overdose, is one of the most poignant in the novel and clearly shows a strong anti-drug message. Think what you will about drug use (this blog is not the place to go into such a debate), it is a fact that they can utterly destroy friendships and families. Reading Wylie’s struggle in coming to this understanding is, in equal measure, inspirational and utterly tragic.

The other characters in the novel are tarnished by Wylie’s view of them but it is always easy to read between the lines and get the correct impression of what a character is like. Although Wylie justifies Patrick’s abusive behaviour, it is clear to any sane reader that he is a vicious psychopath. Similarly, some of the other characters in the story, such as her former school friends, seem uptight and cruel when Wylie describes them yet the reader can see that they are just trying to distance themselves from a dangerous situation.

One of the most interesting things about the novel is that Wylie’s view of people does evolve over time. Over the course of the story, she is forced to mature very quickly. She soon discovers which friends will stick with her through thick and thin, and which would abandon her at the drop of a hat. She begins to see that people that she once idolised are actually disgusting individuals and not worthy of her time. By the end of the novel, I had a feeling that Wylie was well on the way to getting her life straight. She had been through hell but come out wiser and stronger, with a support net of people who would always be there for her.

So to wrap it up, my initial impressions of Angry Blonde could not have been more unfounded. Although it is slow burning and it takes a good hundred pages before Wylie begins to feel truly sympathetic, when it gets moving it becomes a very compelling read. Wylie is an incredibly relatable character and, although the novel covers some themes that are difficult to read, it does portray her life in a realistic and emotive way. This novel exceeded my expectations in every way and is well worth a read.

Angry Blonde can be purchased as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mroziuk1
    May 28, 2014 @ 00:50:02

    Reblogged this on mroziuk 1 and commented:
    Now that’s what I call a review! Great details without giving anything away. Love it!

    Reply

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