Sunday, November 20, 2016

Review: The French Impressionist by Rebecca Bischoff

Rosemary is fifteen and gloriously free, on her own for the very first time. Part of an exchange program for aspiring artists, she arrives in sunny southern France with a single goal: she doesn’t plan to leave, ever. She wants a new life, a new family, and a new identity. But her situation, crafted from lies big and small, is precarious.

Desperate to escape haunting images from her past and a stage one helicopter parent, Rosemary struggles to hide her lack of artistic talent and a communication disorder that has tormented her all her life. She believes her dream of a new start will come true, until she unwittingly finds herself enveloped in a decades-old mystery that threatens to ruin her only chance for success. Determined to stay, Rosemary must choose whether or not she’ll tell the biggest lie of all, even if it means destroying the life of someone she cares about.

Dramatic, heartwarming, and full of teenage angst, The French Impressionist perfectly captures the struggle of those who feel they have no voice, and also shows the courage it takes to speak up and show the world who we really are.

Rating: 1 Star

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.

I don't know why I expected this story to be better than what I found on the page. I thought that the premise sounded interesting. A teenage girl abroad that wants to stay there and not return to her home? That sounds familiar and at the very least relatable. However, the more I read about Rosemary, the less I liked about her and the more I hated about her situation, whether the events of it where of her own making or someone else's.

In the beginning, without really knowing what the dark events alluded to in the summary are and how they might influence Rosemary or her mother or either person's action, I couldn't feel sympathy for Rosemary. While the revelation of these events might have eventually made me feel a modicum of sympathy for her, the time that it took to get there made it impossible to like her. 

With each chapter, I heard more about the lies that it took to get Rosemary to Nice, France and into the artist program. What came to mind, aside from the lying to her mother that her mother's boyfriend assisted in, was the plagiarism (is it plagiarism if it's art?) and lying she had to do to get into the program. It is obvious from the get go that Rosemary has no artistic talent and not much artistic interest. How many people did she take opportunities from in order to pursue her own selfish desires? That infuriated me the more I thought about it, but the same thought didn't seem to cross Rosemary's mind.

During the course of the story, there was simply too much time spent on actions of hers that were annoying in the best of terms (average teenage behavior) and aggravating at worst (lying to the tune of traveling out of the country without her mother's permission, lying to multiple people, semi-stalking a couple in an attempt to guilt them into allowing her to stay with them as a new daughter). I just hated Rosemary too much by the end to really care why she was doing these things; the fact that she did them erased any reasonable excuse for it.

I also cannot believe the extent to which the adults in this book believed anything that Rosemary came up with, from her mother's boyfriend helping her get a passport to the host parents Sylvie and Emile. The passport thing, actually, infuriates me because it is simply not possible. Do you know how hard it is to get an American passport for a minor? You must have either both parents present or a signed document saying that the present parent is the sole guardian and there is no other parent to protest removing the child from the country. How would someone totally unrelated to Rosemary have been able to do this? THEY WOULDN'T! It's all in the details and overlooking something so simple to Google annoyed me.

The fact that Rosemary was so childish to even think about lying about Zander "doing something bad to her" and that it wouldn't have any consequences for him made me hate her even more. How stupid could you possibly be? Even if Sylvie and Emile bought that story, of course Zander would find out! They'd contact your mother and either she would tell him or she'd press charges. Something would happen and Rosemary not understanding that just adds another tic to the column of how woefully under prepared she was for this "escape" from her old life.

Rosemary just kept getting worse the more the story went on. She was stealing the paintings from the apartment next door, knowing perfectly well that is what she was doing regardless of her reasoning. She even mailed one off to her mother to pose as one of her own, not realizing that this would come back to bite her. I think it was at this moment that, aside from her multiple criminal actions, was when I couldn't figure out why Rosemary picked art of all things to base her new life around. Why not something she actually knew something about? She had no clue about art or any artists.

Once the events of her past were revealed, I honestly did get to feel sympathetic, but not for her. I started to understand her mother more and though she was still a helicopter parent, her reasons were justified. If your child were lost and kidnapped for four days, wouldn't that send you over the edge, even a little bit? The fact that Rosemary never seemed to understand this, never understood why her mother might have acted in the way that she did, just highlighted her selfishness.

This story wrapped up entirely too neatly and in Rosemary's favor. I don't think there would have been a good way to end this mess, but she ended up getting everything she wanted and suffering no consequences for any of the damage that she had done. I despise it when this happens because it teaches them nothing and is utterly unrealistic.

Now, putting the horrible actions of the main character aside, let me talk for a moment about the pacing of the story. It was, as mentioned previously, too caught up in Rosemary's despicable actions. It dragged on and to be quite frank, I got quite bored with the text. I found myself skimming the majority of the book because the writing was so dull. It did not keep my interest. This might very well have been fixed if the characters weren't so deplorable, but I cannot judge that as this is a debut, so I haven't anything else to compare it to.

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