Subversive Reader Reviews: Clara in Washington (AWW2013)

Book reviews and AWW posts can be found here.

AWW2013 – Book 4

Clara in Washington

Adventures of a Subversive Reader: Clara in Washinton
Penny Tangey

Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Kindle e-book, purchased through Amazon


A few years ago I read Loving Richard Feynman, which was innovative, interesting and a really good read. So I came to Clara in Washington, written by the same author, quite excited – an author I’d enjoyed in the past, a fish out of water storyline, a Washington setting – I should really enjoy this book. Unfortunately, I was soon to be disappointed.

Clara has finished her school exams, but doesn’t really want to go on her normal summer holiday excursion to the beach – mostly because she’s embarrassed about the ‘relationship’ she had with a boy who will also be there. Instead, she braves the big bad world and heads to Washington DC, where her mother is working, to explore the sites of Washington, volunteer her time and hopefully find herself. Who knew there’d be anarchists involved?

There was a bit of a slow start to the book, it didn’t really get going until chapter three, which is a pretty big no-no in a Young Adult book. By the time it got going, I pretty much wanted to reach through my iPad screen and shake Clara and about half the other characters in the book. Clara’s defining quality is that she apologises ‘too much’, asks too many questions and is very unsure of herself. This plays over and over again (just to make sure we get the idea). The problem is, there are some points in the story where people just expect her to know what’s happening and then get frustrated when she asks questions. To top it all off, there’s her romance with (possibly the biggest arsehole in young adult literature) a young ‘anarchist’, coffee maker, which somehow never seems believable. I didn’t believe that Clara wouldn’t be more cautious about her relationship with him when she’s over cautious about everything else in her life.

This book could have been great. Clara sees most of Washington, but all we get to see of it is a dusty Hope Diamond, a brief glimpse of a couple of other museums and a quick peek at the Lincoln Memorial. The anarchist plotline felt over laboured, more tell than show, with lots of researched information jammed in. The likable characters in the story got too little time – a story with them featuring more would have been much more interesting. But all in all, this book just never came together in a way that was enjoyable.


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