White Lines – by Jennifer Banash
Queen of the downtown club scene, presiding over the door to some of NYC’s hottest venues, it seems like 17-year-old Cat has everything she could want. Her days are spent struggling to stay awake through classes and avoiding the stares of her classmates, who can tell she’s not like the rest of them. But her nights are spent as royalty – drink, drugs, dancing, and a few collected misfits who are closer to Cat than her family.
You don’t have to scrape very far down at all to find the grime hidden beneath the glamour of Cat’s life.
Actually, most people are closer to Cat than her family. She hasn’t seen her father in months – but at least he pays the rent on her one bedroom apartment. Cat’s mother keeps trying to contact her, but Cat’s been burnt too many times before by the abuse to listen when she calls. Mostly, anyway. Why is it Cat can’t stop wanting her parents to pay attention: even though they’ve proven time and again that they couldn’t care less about her?
I was intrigued by this novel. One of the most interesting elements, for me, was that it didn’t feel like a book set in the 80s at all. It wasn’t dated, and I only registered when the scenes were set about halfway through. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention, but I think it was a comment on how timeless this story felt. There have always been kids like Cat, and there will always be. The year may change, but the stories repeat.
Cat herself was a good lead; neither too sympathetic nor too grating. She was struggling, but not slowing down enough to pay attention to exactly how much she was hurting. It’s a very true-to-life view of a young girl who’s looking for somewhere to escape from an everyday world she can’t handle and doesn’t know how to fix.
The supporting cast weren’t particularly memorable, but they didn’t need to be. This story is all Cat’s, and she carried it well. White Lines wasn’t groundbreaking, but it did what it set out to do very well – which was to snapshot a life in flux, a girl with cracks, and capture the stresses that will either crush or revitalize her.
White Lines is a coming of age novel with enough sympathy and edge to straddle angst and sappiness, and while it couldn’t be exactly an enjoyable read, it was a compelling and, eventually, cathartic one.