I made the rookie mistake of beginning J. Giambrone’s Transfixion when I was slightly overrun with other thoughts. Distraction is not included in any comprehension recipe. So, I started afresh the following morning, and thank goodness I did. The first two chapters then made a lot more sense, and my appreciation for the text went up exponentially.
Transfixion is not your average YA novel, for several reasons. It’s close third person, isn’t a love story (shudder to think), and doesn’t tie up the ending in a nice, pretty bow. All of which make for a refreshing foray into YA literature that I welcomed with open arms. Whether or not anyone else will agree is up for debate, seeing as how reading is subjective. Transfixion follows Kaylee Colton after what is, essentially, the end of the world as we know it. When her life is no longer recognizable, what will she do? Fight or flight? She takes the third option. The one people don’t talk about—ignore. She ignores it at first. And I would too, which is what I liked about her. When your life is falling to pieces, not many people are actually going to jump into action mode. A lot of the time, people, myself included, before even starting to think about what to do, have to process it. We are launched into autopilot and seek our coping mechanism, the one thing that will comfort us when we need comforting, even if that means denial for a little bit. That’s what Kaylee does. She escapes long enough for her brain to repair before kicking into overdrive. After reading other reviews, I think that’s what a lot of others missed: They didn’t catch that development of her character, which is, to me, what makes her a character worth reading.
As the plot progresses, Kaylee changes physically and mentally. There is no easy way to describe this process without giving away spoilers, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say that the reader’s relationships with the other characters are affected as much as Kaylee’s relationship with them is. Kaylee is our filter in more ways than one. Her whole character’s dynamic changes when she gains something she has been missing for the majority of the novel, and that makes her realistic, too. She’s not simply a raging-hormone teenager, or a child thrust into being a warrior and excelling at it without much effort. She is normal. She fumbles, makes mistakes, learns, grows, and craves those oh-so-human elements, like a hug and a physical object from when life made sense.
Another thing I really enjoyed about Transfixion was that it wasn’t a love story. Sometimes it’s nice to have people interacting on a level that is not hormone-charged, to have friendships and relationships and not constantly be focused on “Does he like me? What does it mean when he hands me a pencil? Oh my gosh, he kissed me!” There is more to life than that, and before two people can enter into a romantic relationship, they have to understand each other fundamentally as humans first. Perhaps I should say should instead of can “enter into a romantic relationship.” Because I am consistently disappointed in the betrayal of relationships in YA literature, it was nice to come across a novel whose author didn’t focus on it, and instead preferred establishing characters as individual people without feeling the need to follow one of the staples of this field and throw in a hot-and-heavy romance. Having said that, I realize that some people will dislike this book because that isn’t the focus. To them, I say, “That’s too bad, but to each his own.”
A book is more than one element; it’s several parts put together like a puzzle. And if the pieces fall correctly, it’s an adventure and an escape for the reader into a world that won’t hurt them. This was true for Kaylee, which you learn in the beginning of the book. Giambrone’s integration of Kaylee’s coping mechanism with the storyline is a nice touch that could be missed if you aren’t reading too closely. As it is, I think that it enhanced the story and the characters, and definitely made me smile at the end.
Speaking of the ending, other reviewers have said it didn’t have a resolution, but I don’t agree. I think the ending was perfectly appropriate, and in fact, I wouldn’t have changed it. Why do we need everything wrapped up in a bow? Life isn’t like that. In life, every ending is a new beginning. You finish college and move on to a job or another academic program. A relationship ends, and you rediscover who you are outside of one, so on and so forth. Giambrone’s “resolution” was what I wanted. I would have been disappointed if it were anything else. I was satisfied, which I hardly ever am with books.
The one thing I would change is the middle. I would have liked to have seen Kaylee assert her opinion earlier and more often, but with a solid ending and beginning, I can’t fault it too much. However, if the middle had had a more assertive Kaylee, I’d have been even more pleased with it. I think it would have better driven home the point that conflict can be resolved nonviolently. If the middle had been more like the last three chapters, I’d have no complaints. But I never discovered myself yelling at the book, which is a good thing. The one time I did, it was, “Oh thank goodness!” and out of relief, not anger. Let me just say that chapter 29 had my heart racing, and how Giambrone ended that ridiculously fast-paced climax was exactly what the doctor prescribed to calm my tachycardia.
As with any book, Transfixion has its ups and downs. But with a solid beginning and ending and a protagonist that’s more like you and me than we give her credit for, it’s worth the read. So, get yourself a copy and buckle up. 8/7*
Transifixion will be released tomorrow, 9th September. Watch out for it!