Chopsticks by Jessica Rodriguez and Rodrigo Corral
I had intended to write a post reviewing Chopsticks, but then I realized that since I'm not even sure what happened in the novel (after several readings), I'm certainly not qualified to write a review. Still, the book is so inventive and unique and confusing that I didn't want to say nothing about it. I'll begin with the trailer...
And now let's have a little plot summary...
Glory is a teenage piano prodigy. Frank is the boy next door. The two fall in love and have a whirlwind romance, complete with late-night message chats and mix CDs. Chopsticks is their song. Just as their love begins to flourish, Glory heads out on a tour that takes her to world-renowned concert venues, and away from Frank. Before long, the stress of performing and her longing to be with Frank consume Glory and lead her to breakdown. She'll be on stage performing and then, without warning, will begin playing Chopsticks. Her father takes her off tour and checks her into a mental health facility. She escapes.
But that's just the surface story. Because, you see, this is an interactive novel. The pictures and the words, when read carefully tell a different story. A story that conflicts with the story being told. A story of a young girl's descent into madness.
I would have marked this post as having spoilers and leave a bunch of space, but since I'm not entirely certain what was real and what was in Glory's mind and since it only really takes about 30 minutes to read the entire book and/or go through the entire iPhone app (which, incidentally, was named "App of the Year" by Media Bistro), I'm just going to go ahead and write about the book.
If you've read it, please comment with your thoughts and opinions! If you haven't read it, go buy the app or read the book (it seriously won't take long at all), and then come back after you've typed in or clicked all the links and carefully gone over the details on every page. I have a pretty strong sense that in billing this as an "interactive" novel, the publishers weren't just envisioning the reader interacting with the text and images, but also with other readers.
So here are my questions:
Q. Is Frank real?
Possible A: The first time I read the book, I was positive that he was a real person, and that Glory's dad hated him because her association with him drove her to madness. Then I read it again and talked about it with friends. I don't think he's real. That's why her dad hates "Frank" so much; Frank is a delusion. He's the face on the wine bottle, and she created him in one of her drunken fits of madness. If you look at Glory's wall of art towards the end of the book, you'll even see that those pictures her drew for and of her...are signed with her name. Not his.
Q: But what about the chat messages?
Possible A: Heck if I know. I can't explain how she can chat with a made up person. I guess this means my answer to the first question is wrong, but it's all I've got.
Q: So what is real?
Possible A: Glory is a piano prodigy. She has an obsession with Chopsticks. She has been institutionalized. Several times. Her mother is dead from a (self-inflicted?) motorcycle accident. Her father wants her to be well, but isn't sure how to save her. He enlists the help of a friend and says "I don't want to lose her too."
Q: What else is there?
Possible A: I'm sure I've conveniently forgotten about images that conflict with my version of the story. Haha. Oops.
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