Friday, April 25, 2014

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

(Jacket design: Liz Dresner Jacket Photo: Michael Frost)

Hannah and Zoe are best friends. They live in a two star town in New Jersey that offers nothing more than a future attending the community college and landing an unrewarding job nearby at best. Both want more than what they were given and what lies ahead for them, but both go about it in different ways.

Hannah is girl aware that she deserves more but keeps her expectations low. Her parents, divorced, focus more on their issues rather than trying to make Hannah’s life easier or even better. Her dad, an alcoholic weatherman, told her from a young age that he isn’t paying for college and instead give her a small rolling hot dog stand to sell hot dogs to save for school. Her mother is completely uninvolved with Hannah, because after a divorce and midlife, it seems her mother thinks this is as good as it gets, with her job at the DMV and watching Dr. Oz. Hannah herself does have dreams to one day visit Sweden and to have a chance with Danny Spinelli, her crush since that time he kissed her back in 6th grade. Danny drives the ice truck around the lake’s beaches where Hannah normally sets up her hot dog stand making it possible to see each other from a distance but Danny is with a cheerleader, Rebecca, making it not possible for her to muster the strength to speak to him.

Zoe is your typical beautiful girl, who you learn early on has bipolar disorder, that be due to her age or the disorder is overly flirty, wild and free. Despite that, she is perceptive and supportive of Hannah and her eight year old brother, Noah, who due to his Asperger’s speaks nothing but the cosmos and fails to grasps emotions.  Zoe creates the Museum of Intangible Things, a collection of installations she made depicting emotions like Pride, Sadness/Depression, and Sloth/Laziness for Noah to learn these said emotions.

While at a party hosted by Zoe’s current object of lust, Ethan, the girls get drunk. Hannah has an encounter with Danny, and in the morning realizes that Zoe is missing. Hannah finds her at the other side of the lake, and that’s when it is notable that something is wrong with Zoe. This, along with an incident involving her drunk father, Hannah and Zoe (more so Zoe) decide that road trip is what they need. On road trip, Zoe begins to show Hannah her version of the Museum of Intangible things like insouciance, audacity, gluttony, and a few others in order to get Hannah to stop catering to others. However, it apparent to the reader that Zoe isn’t in the best frame of mind the further they go on with the trip, ultimately leading to a startling ending.

Where to begin! I really wanted to like this book and kept reading thinking it has to get better. The cover is a bit misleading, looks a lot more soft and whimsical than it actually is. I am disappointed that the author made the ending as she did, and overall more disappointed that she brings in Danny Spinelli as a crutch for Hannah later on in the book. Hannah was self-reliant and her only real support was Zoe and then the author swoops Danny in to rescue Hannah and Hannah just curls up in his lap like a kitty and in doing so leaves her friend Zoe out to dry. So much for friendship. Which is even more annoying given that the author ends the first chapter saying, “And we vowed: never to let each other down. There is no stronger bond than the one that gets you through childhood. This is our story.” 
If you read it, I think you’d agree that the ending of this book could have been altogether different if Hannah wasn't distracted with Danny. What I hope people take away from this book if they do read it, is that mental issues are real and not as prettily packaged as they are with Zoe. Also, that you don’t need a boy to rescue you.


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