Saturday, 2 November 2013

Review ~ Stage Daughter by Sheryl Sorrentino

Stage DaughterPaperback received from the author in exchange for a fast track, honest review

Release Date: August 1st 2013

Publisher: Self-published

Every unmarried woman fears unwanted pregnancy (just as every married man dreads discovering he fathered an unknown child). Sonya Schoenberg dreamed of someday becoming a famous actress, but instead, a hapless, one-time tryst with a Muslim man lands her the lifetime role of single mother. 

Alone and forsaken by her family, Sonya tries to keep her dream alive through her “stage daughter,” Razia, now a precocious pre-teen enrolled in a competitive performing arts school. But Raz prefers drawing to drama and has no problem defying her mom to get what she wants—be it piercing her own ears, doing a dumb dare, or hunting down her biological father, Aziz. While Sonya struggles to keep a tenuous hold over rebellious Raz, she stubbornly sets her sights on transforming her mom’s “sperm donor” into a doting dad. Meanwhile, Aziz (the father of two in an arranged marriage) follows a script all his own trying to convert his newfound daughter to Islam. Can this troubled threesome improvise a successful “second run” despite deep-rooted animosities and seemingly insurmountable barriers? Or will bitterness and bigotry forever steal center stage? 

A daughter's determination, a mother's mistrust, and a father's faith collide in this witty and powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and family.

My Opinion

I was intrigued into accepting this book because I was curious about how the author was going to deal with so many factors. It had the promise of rebellion, a teen trying to find herself, family values and religious conflict by which the two parents do not agree. I was interested to see how she entwined all the themes.

What I liked about Stage daughter was that it moved at a fast-pace. The chapters were kept relatively short but were filled with quite a bit of detail. The author didn't hang around in one scene for too long so this made the book easy to continue and I managed to finish it in around five hours. 

As well as this, the story did have realistic elements to it. You could clearly see the emotions of the characters being true and although I didn't really connect with them, it was believable. You could see it happening in real life so it did make the book feel authentic in that sense. The strongest emotions that were believable and for me crafted well was the love of Razia. The worry, love, anger and determination for her to have the best life possible was clearly there and easy to recognise, even if Sonya was a bit controlling.

Another thing I liked was the fact that the author included more to the story than just a rebellious child. She showed different aspects of both Sonya and Aziz's lives so the book did have more depth to it. Also because the who book was written in first person it was easy to see things from the character's POV. I will admit the writing style did confuse me slightly though as each chapter brings a new view point - either Razia, Sonya or Aziz and I feel that if you are going to write in first person like that you need to state the name of the character who is narrating at the beginning of each chapter. Because Stage Daughter did not do this I found myself turning the page to a new chapter thinking "oh no, who's POV is it going to be from now." and when it first happened I even read chapter 1 again thinking I had misinterpreted who was speaking. By naming each character this problem would have been avoided.

My biggest issue with this book however is the age of Razia. The author places her at twelve years old, however because of her attitude I imagined her to be more around fifteen or sixteen. For me everything she did felt wrong for her age. I'm not saying twelve year olds don't go through these types of things but in a book it felt slightly weird to read. I mean Razia was cursing, smoking weed, piercing her own ears, running away, becoming an emo and nearly getting suspended. Her language also seemed a bit mature and stiff. In my opinion that is a lot for a child to go through in such a short time. I can understand wanting to rebel and find herself but I think the author went a bit over the top with her reactions - it just didn't feel right for her age in my opinion.

As well as this Sonya didn't strike me as the best parent. Her love for Razia was obvious but then she would go around f-ing and blinding inn the school playground and at times used violence. She also said things that made me think "would you really say that to a 12year old?!" For me it was these parts that made the book a bit far fetched for me. There was too much going on. I think the author needed to narrow down the issues and focus of a few rather than trying to cram as many as she did in.

Moreover, because there was a lot going on in the book I did feel the story was a little jumpy at times. I did read one chapter about Aziz and it seemed to come out of nowhere. There was no hints (except one and it wasn't obvious until you skim back), build up or anything - the information was dumped on you. I can see how it linked and was part of Aziz's story but I would have like more build up to that moment so it didn't seem so random.

OK, now before I go any further, I want to state that this is purely my opinion on the book. It is not meant to offend anyone so please don't take it that way, it's just how I felt when reading.

When I accepted Stage Daughter I knew there was going to be religious elements, however I didn't realise how heavy it was going to get. I will admit that at times it became overbearing and I felt like I was being lectured on matters of Islam when Aziz was speaking. He was always quoting the Quran or trying to be a good Muslim. I also feel that the author was deliberately picking on the most extreme laws in the religion. I don't know whether it was to show a cultural difference between westerners and Islamic beliefs but for me, once again it was too over the top and was a bit unbelievable. I know Islam is stricter in certain regions and I'm not saying the author didn't do her research, but I came away with a lot of questions from the book about whether Muslims really do some of the things the author listed. Although some of them were true, after checking with my friend (who is Muslim) he informed me that a lot of it was not and that they were the extremist cases which did leave me slightly annoyed as it seemed like a bit of a generalisation and stereotypical.

Overall Stage Daughter was a fast-pace read that touched upon many issues. There were parts I liked and parts I found let it down. I would have liked more on Razia wanting to become an artist as I felt besides at the beginning and end that issue disappeared and I would have liked a bit more action. For me the same thing of Sonya getting angry at Aziz and insulting him became old quickly and I would have liked more diversity. Stage Daughter is an interesting book but for me there were too many factors that stopped my connecting with it.

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