Genre: Contemporary Romance Author: Jardine Libaire My rating: ♠♠♠
White Fur begins in a Romeo & Juliet manner: a boy and a girl in a cheap motel, a shot gun between them. The son of a rich investment banker, the daughter of a poor teen from the ghetto, and a promise between them. 300+ pages later, and the story ends much the same but it’s the journey that matters here, not the beginning or the end.
I am not sure what to call Jardine Libaire’s debut novel. White Fur is not at all what I expected and I’m still coming to grips with it. It’s not quite a story but it’s also not entirely a fable. It feels like a warning, a flashing neon sign that screams at you to run in the opposite direction while simultaneously beckoning you with its crude allure.
It’s a tale of love, sex, and class in 1980s New York City as experienced through the eyes of the young. At times, it felt entirely magic. I felt as though the reality of the story was slipping through my fingers, an ethereal veil of possibilities.
The feeling never lasted long, as the main characters – and myself – were constantly reminded that this wasn’t a fairy-tale or a happily-ever- after. Not in the typical sense of the words as we’ve come to know them.
Elise and Jamey fall hard for each other. They are stupidly in love. Passionately in love. Wildly in love. And despite the odds against them, they push forward. At times, I admired them for their perseverance. I admired them for their ferocity and hunger and their ability to survive.
They meet while Jamey is at Yale. He’s obviously from money and she’s obviously trouble from the wrong side of town, the kind of person he’s been taught to avoid, but he can’t. Their relationship is certainly one of the more interesting I’ve read in awhile.
This awkwardness of reality is present in every sentence. They meet. They fall in love. Feelings are messy, jobs are worked, drugs are taken, love is made. There is nothing stable, nothing to promise an absolute future for the two of them.
Elise is a survivor – she’s smart, outspoken, honest, especially when it comes to her feelings toward Jamey. There are times, I admit, when I absolutely do not like her. There are times when she has zero respect for herself, when it’s clear she has no clue what she wants. She does feel aimless, as if her entire universe revolves around Jamey. Trust me, I get being in love, but it’s this obsession (pair with the focus on sex) that had me wondering if she really did love Jamey. I’m not sure exactly why but I couldn’t fully commit to liking her.
“Taped to her wall, where someone else might hang a crucifix, is a page torn from Rolling Stone: Prince in a misty lavender paradise.”
― Jardine Libaire,
The same goes for Jamey, who honestly could be mentally ill. Unlike Elise, he does not instantly fall in love with her. In fact, he is repulsed by her. His character felt numb to me, as if there was a glass wall between him and the world; nothing to could touch him, he can feel nothing of it.
His view of Elise at first was disturbing, a mix of interest, desire, and utter disgust. On one hand, I understood it, especially considering what he’s been taught his whole life, but on the other hand, this ‘view’ of her continues even after he realizes he loves her.
“No one asked Jamey to be the policeman and pastor of egos. Why does he think this is his obligation?”
― Jardine Libaire,
Perhaps what I enjoyed most about the characters was the diversity and the widely different personalities. Everyone felt real. Everyone was flawed. The characters weren’t victims of the plot, they were reactive participants and I loved it.
Jardine Libaire’s writing style is unique, almost poetic. It was a sort of….glittery-trash poetry that sought to beautify the hideous and make ugly the finer things. Beauty and vulgarity were forefront in my mind as I read each ferocious, passionate line.
“She likes the mystery of that changeover, those fifteen minutes of sundown when the streets and trees and people and parked cars are delicate and immediate, every sound and smell and movement amplified by the lowest light or the lightest darkness. Even a city that’s broken and dirty can, in that time, be divine and intimate.”
― Jardine Libaire,
Libaire’s writing style is gorgeous, but I do feel it was, at times, overdone. I felt overwhelmed from details that didn’t seem to have a place in the story, by people, places, and things that did not matter by the end of the book. It had the potential to be pretentious and full of itself.
In fact, I felt like it was, but by the final page, I wondered if Libaire intended it to be this way; if she was capturing the uncompromisingly passionate and possessive love that drew Jamey and Elise together.
White Fur is soaked in sex. It doesn’t do half-measures or leave anything unsaid. It’s violent, crude, an unabashed acceptance of identity and sexuality, and it doesn’t apologize for its pain or agony caused.
It leaves you as it begins, with a boy and girl, ablaze with their emotions in a cheap motel, one finger on the trigger…..
A verge of release.
Want to know about Jardine Labaire? http://jardinelibaire.com/
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