True Blue
by Luanne Rice, contemporary (2002)
Bantam, $7.50, ISBN 0-553-58398-0


Holy scrimminy scorpions in my panties, True Blue is one of the most fiendish, grotesque stories I've ever read. I still get megalosaurus goosebumps thinking about this book. Liberally sprinkled with sugar and painted in vivid Kinkadian colors of red, red, red the color of Uncle Sam's True Heart or something like that, this book is like a bad grade school play written by a bunch of overearnest hillybilly school kids.

This is a story about being stuck in a rut. This is a story of a more macabre, ultimately sanizited Pleasantville Neuremberg, where people are so nice to only their own kind and everyone else can just die. Zebulon Mayhew and Rumer Larkin are kids in love. But they don't do any heavy petting. No, they declare everlasting love, a beautiful tale of budding love and budding prepubescent mammaries, until they reach college age, and then they plan to Make Love. Stars will light up the sky when astronomy-enthusiast Zeb probes his telescope into Rumer's solar system, and they can't wait. They can't wait...

Until Elizabeth, Rumer's pretty and fame-crazy sister (read: future actress who doesn't stay at home to take care of the kids - BITCH!), skanks up and snares Zeb into marriage!

Rumer screams in pain, and for the rest of her life, she remains in Hubbard's Point, a vet, every day thinking about Zeb and muttering about her sister. Everybody talks about her and Zeb every day, apparently, and everybody mutters things about how Lizzy, who, with her pretty face and careers and all, is No Longer One Of Us.

Then Zeb comes home with his daughter. La, la, la romance blossoms in the air, la la la.

Sigh.

Rumer's a vet. That means we have lots of touching scenes of Rumer healing birdies and kittens and all, as her tears roll down as look, the birdie flies! Altogether now, let's hold hands as the violins surge into an uplifting crescendo. "Spread your wings and prepare to fly," Mariah Carey will sing, "for you have become a butterfly!"

There's also a little "sensitive" girl, who weeps at the thoughts of dissected canaries and all while taking her exams. Oh, animals are so lovely and cute, they are our brothers and sisters! Love the animals! Save the animals!

And do people speak like this in real life?

"I never should have taken this class for my elective," Quinn (the "sensitive" kid) whispered. "It's only because you're teaching it. I should have signed up for automotive arts instead. Cars don't hurt or feel pain - they just rust."

When I could finally stop howling in laughter at that stupid line ("... they just rust"), I laugh once more as I reflect on those hysterical apple pie reactionaries. Yeah, save the animals, as our SUVs release enough pollution to choke the air. Save the canaries and other cute round and fat critters, and kill the carnivores and leave our SUVs - and guns - alone!

"Kids like that, who've had too much adversity young, have a real uphill battle. Quinn tries so hard, but she's something of a lost soul... she needs us to understand her. I might have stayed lost forever if I haven't met my Clarissa."

If you hear me speaking like that, dropping pretentious and grandiose imageries and metaphors like "staying lost forever" and "uphill battle" in my grocery shop chat, I give you free rein to drag me to rehab and detox.

The people here all talk like drugged-up over-dramatic bad poets after Hashih Night, and worse, everyone here is preoccupied with ripping apart Elizabeth (pretty, a career that doesn't involve caregiving = evil) and overglorifying Simple Apple Pie Values in such an extreme black and white way that it can suck out a discerning and contemporary reader's brain cells if one is not careful. The people in this story are the apple pie kinda people who hang Kinkade paintings all over their rooms, clean their guns as they talk about the good old days while eyeing the new colored/city folk neighbors in narrow-eyed suspicion, and where the motto of the day is "If it's not our way, it never gets done!" Factor in Zeb and Rumer's cloying, ultra-saccharine stars-and-birds-flying-free romance, Quinn's sensitive eek-eek tears (all that's missing is "I see dead people" - wait, that's this author's last paperback) and her romance with her Pampers-dour boyfriend, and it's like suffocating slowly inside a giant ice cake.

Luanne Rice channels the worst of M Night Shyamalan, Carebears, and Thomas Kinkade all in one story. Grandiose, overblown, saccharine, yet devoid of originality, brainpower, or anything remotely believable, this baby is dying in blue.

Rating: 37


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