Book Review : Leah Erickson - The Gilded Lynx (2016)
Pre-Order THE GILDED LYNX here (Official Release on May 15)
"David married me at my peak. When everybody loved me. I had Saudi princes offer me a million dollars to sleep with them. I mean, I used to be put up on this incredible pedestal. I was worshiped for this being me. Do you know how empty that can make you feel after a while? To be applauded for no reason? A black spot started growing in me back then. No one knew it."
The young adult fiction conundrum goes as follows: it is a genre written by scarred adults for teenagers as some kind of inspiring and entertaining survival guide they wished they once had. But since the great majority of teenagers either don't read or seek adult books, young adult fiction is a genre primarily read by other adults, looking back on their unfulfilling teenage years. Because healthy teenager never want what's made especially for them. They seek the forbidden fruits of adult age.
Needless to say, my track record with young adult fiction is short and adversarial. Why would I put myself through another novel? Because the good people of Kraken Press don't usually publish that genre and I thought it was intriguing that they picked up Leah Erickson's apocalyptic YA novel The Gilded Lynx. Turned out the novel itself provided answers to every questions I could possibly have and then some. It's incredibly smart, accessible and dodges most of the mandatory bullshit you find in YA novels.
Society in The Gilded Lynx is about to collapse. It hasn't yet, but the streets are blooming with angry people and the military is barely able to put a lid on the unrest. The government pretends there is an airborne disease decimating the population, but there is no way to verify whether it's true or not and conspiracy theories are flowing through the grapevine like a surge of adrenaline. Daphne, daughter of famous actress Amelia Andrews, lives sheltered from that reality until the day civil unrest catches up to her and forces her to flee and to discover a new and terrifying world she's anything but ready for.
The first thing I can tell you about The Gilded Lynx is that it addresses fascinating issues. Not only issues that are uncommon to young adult fiction, but issues that are rarely discussed in fiction period. I was extremely fond of Daphne's mother Amelia because she embodied an idea that is very pertinent in this day and age: the impossible standards for reality set by the movie industry. I could read an entire novel of Amelia Andrews losing her goddamned mind. Make it happen, Leah Erickson! Here's another example of how great she is:
"I moved people back then. Truly. But it wasn't something I really did. I wasn't a good actress. I was just a vessel, and I let the characters enter me. It wasn't something I had to work at. I didn't deserve the credit. Or the awards."
"You made a lot of people happy. They enjoyed your films."
"Yes, but, honey, you shouldn't sell people something that's false."
The influence of media plays an important part in The Gilded Lynx too. It's never really clear throughout the novel whether it's the apocalypse of not, but it kind of doesn't matter because society is collapsing anyway due to that uncertainty. I might've seen it better explained in other works, but novels that discuss the power and role of media are pretty rare. Leah Erickson tackles inspiration, identity, objectification and several other important questions that supersede the usual theme of young adult novels in The Gilded Lynx: being unique and having an important destiny to fulfill.
That said, the endearing apocalyptic angle comes to a screeching halt about halfway into The Gilded Lynx and the storyline gets highjacked by a love story, which is not uncommon in the genre. It drove me nuts when I read The Hunger Games. I thought it made the second half of The Gilded Lynx slightly less interesting than the first, but it wasn't so bad overall because the apocalypse here is somewhat metaphorical. It represents her passage to adult age: the collapse of her illusions, of her coherent but naive vision of the world. That and I might've enjoyed hating on Daphne's self-centered and manipulative boyfriend.
I found myself enjoyed the heck out of The Gilded Lynx. I mean, it won't exactly change my life, but it's insanely readable (read it from cover to cover in two days) and it treats its audience like intelligent people. Any teenager who will be fortunate enough to read this novel will be exposed to several complex and abstract issues adults have to deal with. I don't have any children of mine, but God knows I wouldn't force young adult fiction on them if I did, but I would recommend The Gilded Lynx to anyone over 15 years old really, because I believe it has something to offer to any audience who likes to ponder over the entertainment they're offered. A smart book is a smart book, no matter how you label it.