Are You Dead Already?

Stupid Children - Lenore Zion

(First posted on Goodreads)

I will never forget that day, June 8th, I returned to my home after a day of digging through the rock bed, searching for treasure at the park, and there was my sweet father, my gentle and fragile father, sprawled across the kitchen table (the kitchen was always his favorite room in the house—he said this was because there were never any bad memories in a kitchen, only good memories) with a steady stream of blood dripping from the table’s edge, pooling in the corner of the room, drawing my attention to an apparent tilt in the foundation of our house.

After her father's unsuccessful suicide attempt, Jane becomes a subject to foster care system. Suddenly it isn't her dad anymore that is to take care of her, but a bizarre cult known as 'Second Day Believers'.

Jane's foster parents are called Martin (or, Sir Six in the cult) and Connie (Madam Six). Each night, Connie becomes a drooling, zombie-like monster mother. Each morning she pretends to be responsible and caring - she makes pancakes for breakfast and all! And when there's no fear of social workers interfering their so-so idyllic life, Jane is forced to attend to Second Day school lessons and weird 'cleansing' rituals.

“No,” she told me, “we’ll be cleansing your mind today.” I’d heard of physical impurities, and certainly I had witnessed with my own eyes many such impurities, given that my father tended to lean towards the dirtier side of clean, but in my ten years I had not once been educated in regards to mental impurities.
--- Because I knew nothing about mental impurities, I hushed my misgivings of the methods Madam Six and the others exercised, and kept quiet as two deflated, worm-shaped balloons were systematically inserted into my nostrils–one balloon per nostril.

Whilst her actions don't quite meet the criteria for rebellious, she hasn't entirely given up. Jane still trusts her dad ("who only made a mistake" in attempting suicide) and she's determinded to find him. There is also her Second Day Believer friend, Virginia - a girl who is, in one way or another, a part of her greatest adventures (like LSD trip - and the other kind of trip, too).
It's just difficult to escape a cult when you don't really know what's going on and why and what should be going on instead. When you're not completely alone but not capable of handling the situation, either. When your dad doesn't even write proper letters to you.

Stupid Chilren has a deeply personal feel to it and was, to my understanding, very believable, as it was easy for the reader to identify with the messed up characters that Zion writes about. The setting is interesting and not like anything I've personally come across before. I simply loved the way relationships are described in this book, and Jane's ponderings and introspection fit well to the story, too. At times she's perhaps more certain of her interpretations than she has reason to be and she can come across as chilish because of that, but it all feels natural and human. It's evident that the writer knows a thing or two about human mind, and is still interested to explore it more.

Then again, sometimes I found it hard to keep track of the story because Jane uses quite a lot of words and is prone to getting sidetracked (which is, again, something I understand but found it to be a bit disturbing in a novel). Those ramblings were interesting and entertaining and whatnot but didn't really help in keeping the story together, and at the end, I'm not sure how well the actual plot worked - if there was a plot. It's as if Stupid Chilren aimed to not tell a story, but to explore the capability of humans, or perhaps it was written just to test the writer. Anyway, it may not be for the masses. If 'masses' have something against the idea of Quentin Tarantino -style progress in the story.

I personally enjoyed this novel - especially because it was so easy for me to connect with the characters and analyze what might have caused this and that (and what is this novel trying to say) - but it didn't take me to really previously unseen places or situations, despite containing some surprising moments. And, let's face it, I like it when giving up is more like a temporary solution for the characters and not the final answer to all the challenges life throws at them.
Don't get me wrong, they were still lovely, and the ending was handled well even though no one seemed to be so active anymore.

You are dead if you are a human being attacked by a human. You are dead if you are a deer and you're being attacked by a human. You are dead if you are a human being attacked by a deer.

Don't you dare to forget it... Anything can happen.

I received a free copy of this book.