Book Review: Capricious by Gabrielle Prendergast

Ella’s 11th grade year was kind of a disaster, what with the controversial photo she took that wound her up in all sorts of trouble, her mother’s eating disorder relapse, and the hate crimes on campus.  Now that summer is on the horizon, she hopes that things will improve.  She’s back with Samir, but they’re keeping it a secret.  The problem is, she’s also sort of seeing David (but not fully committed to the concept of him as boyfriend).  Unable to resist the urge to be different from the masses, Ella faces new challenges and lessons as she realizes that her actions definitely have consequences–and she can hurt people more than she realizes.

This follow-up to Prendergast’s excellent Audacious offers readers more of Ella’s complex, authentic world.  Told in gorgeous, sparse verse, the novel picks up where the last left off, but it should work for readers who haven’t read the first just fine.  Unlike many verse novels, Prendergast uses the format to great advantage here, playing with form and length to mimic Ella’s emotional ups and downs.  It’s damn near perfect.

Ella is a complex character, fully realized, and Prendergast’s respect for her and her growth is apparent on every page.  She allows her characters to make mistakes and learn from them, all without ever judging them.  There’s a great deal of nuance here, especially with regard to belief systems and how they can change as people change.  Instead of falling into didacticism, Prendergast remains in tight control of these explorations.

The result is a sensitive, absolutely compelling gem of a novel.  It’s memorable, moving, and well worth a reader’s time and investment.  Definitely recommended to fans of the first novel, but also for new eyes.  Prendergast is an author to watch.

Capricious by Gabrielle Prendergast. Orca Books: 2014. E-galley accepted for review via publisher.

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