The Troubled Girl Named Marlena

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I read the premise for Marlena and I thought that it was gonna be more of a murder mystery than what it turned out to be. Now of course it wasn’t categorized as a mystery, so that’s what I get for assuming. Anyway, the main character of the book isn’t Marlena, but her best friend, Cat. The story is told from Cat’s perspective.

Cat, her mother and her older brother, Jimmy, move to Silver Lake, Michigan, after their parents’ divorce. It’s an extremely small town with basically nothing to do. Based on descriptions in the book it doesn’t sound like a place that anybody would want to move to. At some point in the book, Cat’s mom says that she wanted to move as far away from where they were living because everyone knew why the divorce happened. In the beginning of the book, Cat meets Marlena. She is her next door neighbor. Cat is fascinated with her and wants to be her friend. The girls do end up becoming friends and during this time Cat starts to skip school to hang out with Marlena’s friends. During this time period is when Cat first became an alcoholic. While Cat was drinking, Marlena was heavily into abusing prescription drugs. Oxycontin was her favorite.

The story alternates between Cat’s life in the present and in the past. Cat idolized Marlena for two reasons: she was older than her and because Marlena was the opposite of everything that Cat was in her life before Silver Lake. One quote from Cat about Marlena encompassed how I felt about Marlena and about how Cat talked about Marlena. “Why do I keep doing this? Making her out to be more than she was, grander, omniscient, even, lovely and unreal. She could be such a bitch. She could sense what you hated about yourself and if you pissed her off she’d throw it back in your face, she’d make sure you know you thought it, too.” This is not friend behavior. If anything this is manipulative friend behavior. I didn’t like Marlena because of this and also she was just plain mean. A lot of people in the book loved Marlena so much and I didn’t understand why.

Why do I keep doing this? Making her out to be more than she was, grander, omniscient, even, lovely and unreal. She could be such a bitch. She could sense what you hated about yourself and if you pissed her off she’d throw it back in your face, she’d make sure you know you thought it, too. —Cat commenting on Marlena.

The times that I actually felt bad for Marlena were during her interactions with Bolt. Bolt was Marlena’s dad’s friend. He was very creepy and was in love with Marlena. It was a bad relationship from the start. “I’d already known that this relationship was a transactional one, favors for pills, favors for food, cigarettes, rides, probably even money. I’d been waiting all that time for her to tell me, for her to just come clean, stop, and in a way I was grateful.” This quote comes after Marlena tells Cat a story about the first time that she did a sexual favor for Bolt. Readers could tell from the very beginning that the relationship between Bolt and Marlena was not only healthy, but also wrong. Just like Marlena felt uncomfortable around Bolt, I felt uncomfortable whenever there was a scene in the book with Bolt.

Throughout the book, I wished that Cat and Marlena would make the right decisions, but they hardly ever did. “You ever have the feeling, like, you know you aren’t good, you’re not doing things right—like you can see yourself screwing up, kind of like watching it on a movie, but even though you feel it happening, there’s nothing you can do to stop it?” This quote comes from Marlena’s ex and Cat’s sort of friend, Ryder. If you read the book you will understand why I referred to him as that. After I read this quote I immediately thought out loud “Yes!” because I felt this same way about the characters while reading this novel. I wanted so badly for Marlena to turn her life around and become a better person, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I had been wishing that this was a fantasy novel so a genie could show up to grant them a wish to right all of their wrongs. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. Cat did end up leaving Silver Lake to attend college in New York and she still lived there in the present with her husband, Liam. Readers could still sense that even though Cat left Silver Lake, Silver Lake didn’t leave her.

Overall, I thought that this book was decent. It captured female friendships in an interesting way. It’s just hard to read a book with characters that you don’t like. Not only did I not like Marlena, but I wasn’t too fond of Cat either. It was a well crafted book with unlikable characters.

What books about female friendships have you enjoyed? Let us know in the comments below!

~Kayla

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Kayla works at Squirrel Hill as a Clerk, so when you come up to the customer services desk you might see her face! When she’s not at the library she enjoys reading, watching TV & listening to music. You might also find her at your local Starbucks, because she loves her Frappuccinos.