I was asked to review this by E. Belle, so would like to say thank you for sending me the book.
Maggie reviewed this book for me, so here is what she had to say;
“Listina Bello has been on a perpetual search for happiness ever since she graduated from high school ten years ago. Legal assistant by day and partier by night, Listina thinks she is functioning perfectly fine. She drinks a bottle of Pinot every night, but still manages to keep her dead-end job, her Manhattan apartment, and her social life. Unfortunately, she could not be more wrong.
With a bottle of wine as her companion, Listina trolls Facebook one night, finally landing on a photo she thought she blocked. As she stares at the old yearbook picture of the smiling girls who relentlessly bullied her back in high school, she suddenly realizes she has been suppressing her emotions for years and hiding behind a myriad of distractions, hoping to numb, or even kill, her feelings altogether. With no other way out but up, Listina relies on old diary entries to dig deep inside herself, return mentally to her seemingly perfect hometown, and finally face her harsh label, relive the taunts, and experience the heartache all over again.
In this poignant novel, a young woman torn between her past and her future must finally shake the identity she was unfairly given in order to begin to find her own.”
I’ll warn you straight off – this isn’t an easy book to read. This is for two reasons. Firstly, if you were ever bullied in school and still suffer from the feelings that creates, Living In Dog Years is going to stir this all up for you again. And secondly, the pace of the book is very disjointed. This creates a very deliberate effect: you jump around between the present time, Listina’s high school days, and the aftermath. The action leaps between recollection, the therapists office and Lis’ sporadically kept diaries, sometimes sober, but more often accompanied by a few glasses of chilled white wine.
Scenes, dialogue and occasionally sentences repeat themselves as Lis revisits her past again and again as she tries to come to terms with everything she has suffered. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not accusing this of being a badly written book. The repetition is obviously deliberate, and creates a feeling of thoughts and memories just falling out of Lis’ head as and when she encounters them.
With the tone set in this way, you very quickly slip in to the mindset of Listina Bello, a young woman who has never recovered from some serious high school bullying and instead finds refuge in drink and drugs. Here’s the thing – while I often felt quite sorry for Lis, I didn’t find myself warming to her: she is impulsive, vain, and uses friends and boyfriends to her whim. She knows all of her own faults (hence the psychiatrist and extensive drinking problem), and is trying to overcome them.
As the story is narrated from Listina’s point of view, we don’t get to know any of the other characters as well as we know our protagonist. Instead, we get a picture of this myriad of people though her eyes – those who are good to her and those who ruin her life, people she trusts when she shouldn’t, and people she ignores when she should be turning to them for help.
Living In Dog Years is a very modern novel; referencing MySpace, Facebook and even Twitter, using Craigslist and Farmville, and moving through technology such as DVRs and Netflix. It is also quite a dark novel – Lis drinks, takes coke, hooks up with married and unsuitable men, and throws around every swear word you can think of.
The author, E. Bell, has admitted that this novel is based loosely on her own high school experience, and it shows. In particular the last chapter is the best kind of therapy for Ms Bell and any of us who were bullied.
Here is the link for the ebook;
Thank you Maggie for the review.