In almost every novel on the copyright page there lies a brief "summary" of the narrative. Recently I've begun to read these so-called summaries to see what they say. I think it's reasonable to assume that these writings will be a good description of at least a semblance of the contents of the book. Not so, I tell you!
Here are a few novels and the fucked up, lame-o, reductive and/or just plain wrong descriptions contained within. These happen to be from my class on adolescent literature.
Paranoid Park by Blake Nelson--summary: A sixteen-year-old Portland, Oregon skateboarder whose parents are going through a difficult divorce, is engulfed by guilt and confusion when he accidentally kills a security guard at a train yard.Where do I start with this one? No, he is not engulfed by guilt and confusion WHEN he accidentally kills a guard, but AFTER he does so. Stupid.
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden--summary: Liza puts aside her feelings for Annie after the disaster at school, but eventually she allows love to triumph over the ignorance of people.This one is the weirdest--what does it mean to say she "puts aside her feelings" ?? I don't think she does, and after the "disaster at school" can only be referring to the ear-piercing incident which is in no way a disaster. This summary makes very little sense and is just plain stupid.
Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You by Peter Cameron--summary: Eighteen-year-old James living in New York City with his older sister and divorced mother struggles to find a direction for his life.This one is also weird and mostly startlingly reductive.That's all you could come up with for James Sveck, that he is struggling to "find a direction" ?? That makes him sound like a moron. Stupid, and criminal, really, when you consider how lovely and nuanced the character is in this luminous novel.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson--summary: A Traumatic event near the end of summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year of high school.Okay, well, I can understand the need for obfuscation on this one so as not to reveal what the trauma is until the reader needs to know, but really, saying this trauma has a "devastating effect" on her freshman year in high school makes it sound like she didn't get to go to prom or something. How about the effect it has on her psyche or her soul or her sense of self? Fuck the freshman year of high school.
Inexcusable by Chris Lynch--summary: High school senior and football player Keir sets out to enjoy himself on graduation night, but when he attempts to comfort a friend whose date has left her stranded, things go terribly wrong.I'll say they go "terribly wrong" beginning with this summary! Gigi is not Keir's "friend" but the object of his lust/love/obsession, and her date does not "leave her stranded." It can also be argued that Keir does not attempt "to comfort" Gigi but rather himself, which is a nice way of saying he rapes her.
I think the depiction of James Sveck with his face in his hands on the cover of Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You says it all.