Karma for Beginners by Jessica Blank (August 18th 2009—Hyperion)
Grade: 2.7 stars out of 5
Summary: “Fourteen-year-old Tessa has never had a normal life. Her mother, a frustrated hippie with awful taste in men, has seen to that. But when her mom pulls her out of school to live at an ashram in the Catskills, Tessa goes from being a freak among normal people to being an outcast among freaks. Freaks who worship an orange robe-wearing guru. And while her mom is buzzing with spiritual energy, and finding a little too much favor with the guru, all Tessa feels are weird vibes.
Unless she's with Colin, the gorgeous boy who fixes trucks for the ashram. The connection they share is the most spiritual thing Tessa has ever felt. But he's older-like illegally older-and Tessa's taking dangerous risks to spend time with him. Soon her life is blooming into a psychedelic web of secrets and lies and it's clear that something's about to give way. When it does, will she have anyone to hold on to? Will she even know herself?”
Review: There is an abundance of drugs (pot, LSD) and sex in this book so while it involves a 14 turned 15 girl, I would suggest being careful of who’s picking this up.
In the beginning I was quite reluctant and a bit turned off by the ways the characters explored sexuality (spoiler: your 20 some year old boyfriend’s creepy, really creepy, friends and an orange) but someone mentioned that it wasn’t set in the modern time so I let it slide to some extent. I never really delved into those times so I wasn’t exactly sure what is acceptable and what isn’t. Yeah it was odd but it would have been all the rage back then. Anyway moving on….
I thought Tessa was a fairly relatable character. Here she is in this crazy cult like home and the only thing remotely sane is Colin, not to mention he’s not too bad to look at. I understand her way of thinking, her decisions (well not all) and the feeling to just escape.
Colin was someone I found pleasing…at first. He was emphatic with Tessa—understanding her—and quick to give a hug when needed, and doesn’t try to force something. But he increasingly became this “I am man” attitude and developed this jealous presence that was neither sweet nor protective. He practically threw her away. But again we come back to the drugs. They were high, maybe disoriented. I’m not quite sure. I would have liked to see more of the aftermath. The beginning was great, good build-up, transactions from friends to something more but after the incident I just wonder what next.
The relationship between the mother and Tessa was a fragile give and take. It seemed that the mother was the one that needed more caring, more reassurance, more time and patience. We explore the affects of a young pregnancy when the mother has had barely any time to grow up herself. I think that was this relationship showed us.
One other thing that I liked to point out that Karma For Beginners had this sense similar to Candor. Where everyone just listens to this one main leader. Your expression to think, to explore, is an invalid now. Your opinion is condemned. Your self-judgment is considered acting out. This is where you walk along the lines of being a cult. But aside from Candor, this leader is really, really creepy
The ending however was very disappointing—very abrupt. It was a quick “what do you want” question from the mother with Tessa responding and acting on command. The climax of the ending lasted for a about a paragraph to which we turn to the next page—blank. It ended. I love the concept of the idea—the final letter, the speak and I will listen attitude—but it was too fast, too quick for me to truly appreciate it. Even so it was upsetting how quickly Tessa’s mother just accepted what she had to say. It really was way too short. This is when the ending just breaks the greatest of a novel.
Overall: Started out rocky, turn into something I enjoyed a lot, but ended so abrupt that I was left frustrated.