Summer is right around the corner and I’m sure that many of you are thanking whatever divinity you believe in that everything is almost over. For many of us, summer means a time before a big change, precious moments you spend with family and friends relaxing, travelling, making happy memories. Summer is also a time for festivals, a time to (re)discover yourself, to try new things, make new friends, find new bands, and be adventurous. Coincidentally, it’s during summer that I can actually read lots of the books on my very, very large reading list, and it was during a fateful summer a while back that I stumbled upon a hidden gem that changed me.
When I was around fourteen or fifteen, I was a very frustrated teenager trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. Everyone knows that going through that phase is difficult and awkward because, at the same time as wanting to belong to a tribe, you also want to be different from everybody else, to feel special and safe in your own skin. That’s when Cecil Castellucci’s Beige emerged from the depths of my school’s library. I just know that I read that book at least six times that summer and a dozen more times throughout the following school year. Rest assured that I don’t plan on writing anything about the story itself. Instead, I’ll focus on two points that I’ve carried with me ever since I read Beige for the first time: the music and the title.
At the time, I was a big fan of pop and rock music, as I am to this day, but when I read the book I was presented with a whole new genre that spoke to me like nothing else before: punk rock. I’ve always been a fan of music, but when I found my jam, I felt like nothing could stop me, I felt empowered and it impacted to some extent, what major I chose in college. To me, punk rock is a form of protest: a voice representing minorities and a safe haven to criticise our society and government in a way to promote change in the world. The words of the songs are as harsh as the reality that we live in, with lots of curse words and loud upbeat guitars and drums creating beautiful melodies in a chaotic world.
In Beige, Castellucci ties the story with an amazing punk background, representing the underdogs of society and giving them a voice. There’s just one small detail of the book that I’ll have to spoil otherwise my current rambling won’t make any sense. The protagonist receives a CD that helps her understand all this chaotic music going on around her. This playlist – which is amazing – forms the titles of the chapters of the book, giving every chapter their own soundtrack that synchronises perfectly with the mood of each part of the story. I made my playlist with the songs and the second time I read the book, I listened to each chapter’s respective song and it was wonderful. I felt like I discovered a new dimension of the protagonist and of myself, full of newfound emotions and acceptance of who I was becoming.
When I was reading the book I also realised that the title itself was as important as the playlist, if not more. Beige, as we all know is the most neutral colour there is, and it is that colour that the protagonist started the book. Beige is also the colour that we start our teenage lives when we don’t know who we are, when our canvas has just one coat of paint and is waiting for the rest. The protagonist is so different from the beginning to the end of the book that she went through a complete self-discovery. She found that life isn’t black and white, there are lots of colourful shades in between, that someone can like punk rock and pop and it’s more than okay to be yourself because in the end, nothing really matters than being true to who you are.
I still think that the most difficult thing in life is being true to myself and being strong and confident in who I am. I think that we’re changing all the time, even though we don’t seem to notice it, and sometimes I still get lost and doubt myself, not recognising the person that stares back at me when I look in the mirror. At times like these, I take a step back and read Beige again, go through my self-discovery once more and I always find where I can make an effort to be a better person or to be truer to myself and my goals in life. By then, summer is almost over and I prepare for the adventures lying ahead in an uncertain future.
Description from the author’s website:
Beige by Cecil Castellucci
Exiled from Canada to Los Angeles, Katy can’t believe she is spending the summer with her father–punk name: the Rat–a recovered addict and drummer for the band Suck. Even though Katy feels abandoned by her mom, even though the Rat’s place is a mess and he’s not like anything she’d call a father, Kathy won’t make a fuss. After all, she is a girl who is quiet and polite, a girl who smiles, a girl who is, well, beige. Or is she? From the author of BOY PROOF and THE QUEEN OF COOL comes an edgy L.A. novel full of humor, heart, and music.
My name is Barbara C. Diniz and I’m from Brazil! I’m a 21-year-old undergrad and living far away from my family. My major is International Relations and I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with my life after I graduate. I believe this might change by the end of 2017 though. I read a lot from whatever genre you can imagine. I also listen to a lot of music and I like to binge watch series’ online. And I do have a social life. My favourite colour of all times is red, just because. I write both American and British English so don’t get confused when you see (or don’t) a letter that wasn’t supposed to be there. This is the first time that I ever written for a non-academic blog, and I’m really excited and a bit scared at the same time. If you have any ideas, facts, or criticisms about my articles, please comment. I value truthfulness and I always have room to improve so I can write better and you can enjoy my articles!
[Barbara will be guest-blogging with us on a monthly basis – check out her articles on the second Saturday of every month]