Amanda Knox should sue.
I originally wanted to write this review after my review of Columbine, since I prefer to keep my reviews in the order I read the book. But I need a little more time to gather my thoughts on Columbine, since it’s such an impactful piece. When that Facebook meme came around, “list the top 10 books that left an impact,” I put Columbine on there even though I read it less than two weeks ago. It left that much of a mark on me.
The same cannot be said for Cartwheel.
Reading Cartwheel right after Columbine lends to kind of an interesting comparison. While they are different genres – Columbine is nonfiction, Cartwheel is “fiction”- Cartwheel is basically the Amanda Knox story with a name and location change and the removal of the boyfriend as an official suspect. So reading Cartwheel is pretty much like reading a nonfiction account of the Knox case. A poorly written account.
Cartwheel tells the story of the murder of Katy Kellers, supposedly by her roommate Lily Hayes. The point of the novel is that it’s ambiguous if Lily killed Katy or not. And therein lays the biggest problem. If the author had simply taken the idea of a death of an exchange student and the main suspect being the roommate who found her, this may of work. There is ambiguity in that. There is no ambiguity in the Amanda Knox case; not with all the evidence that it was clearly someone else and Knox’s crime is simply being too stupid to lawyer up right at the beginning. (Yea, I went there. Knox is dumb.) So you can’t replicate the entire Knox case, change a couple of minor things (seriously, everything from the cartwheel to the unflushed toilet is the same) and expect us to take the “Did Lily do it?” question seriously.
Further, Lily is one of the four main narrators! How are even pretending that things are ambiguous when you give us Lily’s point of view? It makes no sense.
So the plot fails on a structural level. It also fails on a written account. It amazes me how Columbine, written from an almost distance, journalist point of view is more compelling than a book that has several narrative point of views. I mean, surely at least one of the four main leads would draw you in but alas. Plus, the writing is well…look, I’m certainly not the greatest writer. I always feel bad critiquing writing because of that. It’s too out of my element. But the author’s style is so…pretentious. Like, “I just got my first thesaurus” pretentious. It’s also so “flowery” that I found myself skimming whole paragraphs at the end and not missing anything. I’ve read a lot of bad books during my blogging time, books that are actually worse than Cartwheel, and I didn’t find myself skimming them as much as I did this.
I think there was one point where I got engaged for like half a chapter. Then it quickly went away. It goes without saying, but I don’t recommend this book. Read Columbine instead.