Book Review: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Posted July 15, 2013 by Renae // 13 Comments

Book Review: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Title: The Disenchantments
Author: Nina LaCour
Release Date: February 16, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Rating:

Summary from Goodreads:

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans—and Colby—to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?

This book is very different from a lot of what I read. Not different in terms of story or themes; different because of how its written. Personally, I don’t think The Disenchantments is really my style, though I still think it’s worth reading. Summertime road-trip books are always fun, and I don’t feel like I wasted my time here.

The thing with The Disenchantments is that it jumps into the story straightaway, and LaCour never really devotes much time to exposition. This novel is very much story-focused and plot-driven. The text is light on characterization, background info, descriptions, etc. As a reader who tends to value the whole picture instead of just the story itself, this type of narrative didn’t work as well for me as it might for other readers.

The Disenchantments covers a week-long road-trip in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. Our protagonist is Colby, who’s in love with his best friend, Bev, and who’s volunteered to drive Bev and her bandmates, Meg and Alexa, around for a tour. After the tour, Colby and Bev plan on flying to Europe, where they’ll travel and see sights instead of going to college. Except Bev announces that the Europe trip is off, and the week-long tour becomes something very different than what it was originally supposed to be.

The thing is: Colby feels almost like a girl. Now, I don’t think that female authors should only write female characters or anything, but sometimes you can tell that an author hasn’t grasped the mindset of the opposite gender (it happens with male authors/female characters, too). Colby’s character did not feel authentic for me at all, and the fact that the book is narrated in first person definitely didn’t help. I did sort of warm up to him in the middle sections, but overall I think this book would have been much more interesting if it had been four girls on a road-trip as opposed to three girls and a guy on a road-trip.

Nina LaCour does play with some really great themes, especially toward the end of the book. I think The Disenchantments could have been much better had it not been so bare bones. It’s hard for me to feel for a character if I know absolutely nothing about him or her other than how s/he’s acting in this one particular moment in one particular circumstance. I think that the ideas presented here would have been more powerful if I had seen how they affected Colby as an entire person, as opposed to Colby in a short timeframe.

In the end, I thought this book was decent. It wasn’t boring and it wasn’t awful, but I definitely saw areas where it could have been improved upon. Personal preference also comes into play here, since I think this might be very successful with an entirely different audience. But I’m not a member of that audience, so I can’t say for sure. Either way, I wasn’t massively impressed with The Disenchantments.

Renae has written book reviews and other miscellany for Respiring Thoughts since 2012. She loves dogs, Mexican food, mountains, Shakespeare, and procrastinating. She's currently working on an undergrad degree in English/Spanish lit in the Midwest. Connect with Renae on Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.

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13 responses to “Book Review: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

  1. Oh wow, I had no idea that The Disenchantments is a road trip book and this might be the only one. *feels stupid* Anyway, I’ve always kind of skimmed past it and never bothered with it however, the premise does sound exciting. The music aspect is always fun to read about in books. But I’m sad that it didn’t work out well enough for you.

    • Haha, yep, it is a road trip book. They’re not really my thing, I guess, and neither is music in fiction, so I guess that was two strikes against it. But a lot of people liked this, so I think I’m probably in the minority. 🙂

  2. Gah, this book. I also gave it 2 stars, but I don’t think I liked it as much as you did. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the characters. But I did like the not so great band road trip. I thought that was really real. Great review!

    • I felt like the characters were really…flat. Like I had trouble telling the girls apart because there wasn’t anything memorable about any of them, which made it hard to concentrate on the story. Too bad!

  3. That was really misleading . . . when I read the synopsis it sounded like it was a book about all girls, and there’s a girl on the cover. I totally agree that it would have sounded a lot better as a girl protagonist. That’s so strange. I was never really on the bandwagon for this one because I don’t usually read contemporary, so I don’t know if I’ll read this one.

    • Yeah, I know a lot of people really loved this book, but for me the lack of characterization kind of ruined things. Personally, I’m not going to go crazy recommending it, but that’s me.

  4. “The thing with The Disenchantments is that it jumps into the story straightaway, and LaCour never really devotes much time to exposition. This novel is very much story-focused and plot-driven. The text is light on characterization, background info, descriptions, etc. As a reader who tends to value the whole picture instead of just the story itself, this type of narrative didn’t work as well for me as it might for other readers.”

    🙁 I’d heard such good things about this one, but I’m with you: no matter how much fun a road-trip is, or how I think there need to be more contemps. with road-trips or road-trips in YA in general, a more plot-centric story–with little characterization–is not one I can easily get into.

    “The thing is: Colby feels almost like a girl. Now, I don’t think that female authors should only write female characters or anything, but sometimes you can tell that an author hasn’t grasped the mindset of the opposite gender (it happens with male authors/female characters, too). ”

    Yes, and sometimes I think they go completely in the opposite direction–trying to hard to show they have. One example I specifically remember from a paranormal romance book in first person was that the guy would say things like, “Wish she’d wear that tiny number again.”

    Sorry that this one wasn’t as great as you’d hoped! Here’s to hoping your next read will be better 🙂

    • Oh, yes, THAT happens too. And I guess that some guys think like that, but in those cases the delivery of that mindset just rings false. It’s like in trying to portray an authentic “guy perspective”, the author has just ended up with exaggerated stereotypes, which is awful.

  5. Honestly, all the reviews I’ve seen for this have all been positive ones, so it’s a little surprising that you didn’t feel the same way about it. The part that would probably get the me the most is Colby, though. He sounds like a girl? Okay, ew. No offence or anything, but if you’re going to write with a male MC, do it right! Not sure if I should try this now, despite it being a decent read. Thanks for such an honest review, though.

    • Haha, well, as you know, I live to defy common opinion and foil expectations! 😉

      But yes, Colby’s character was iffy for me (all the characters were, really). I think the story would have been 90% better if LaCour had just spent some time with exposition and character development.

  6. Yeah, this one definitely underwhelmed me. I read it a while ago so I don’t remember what it is that I didn’t like but I do remember feeling that I did not care for the ‘bare bones’ writing style. I need more depth in the writing.

    • Agree—the lack of depth made it hard to follow the story itself, hard to connect with the characters, and, really, hard to care. Disappointment!