Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gothic Lolita

I've been a fan of Dakota Lane's books since I read Johnny Voodoo (sadly, out of print) several years ago. While perusing the new book shelves, I was happy to find she has a new novel out. Gothic Lolita tells the story of two teenage girls, one in Tokyo, one in L.A. whose lives are curiously entertwined. Miya and Chelsea are the same age, favor the same unusual style of dress, and are fans of an out-of-print manga series called Shonen Rainbow Warriors. More than that, they have an emotional connection that neither voices but each feels. Somehow the girl on the other side of the ocean is important, possibly the only person who can understand the other. The teens read one another's blogs faithfully until one day, with no warning, Chelsea goes silent. She posts nothing for three years, leaving Miya to wonder where Chelsea has gone and what has happened, but despite the lack of communication Miya still feels Chelsea. She still needs her.

Miya's father has just died, leaving Miya and her special needs younger brother alone in the world. Even before this their father had abandoned them in a Japanese orphanage, incapable of caring for them after the suicide of their mother. Miya considers running away and taking her brother with her, especially after an American woman shows up, looking to adopt a younger child. Who is this woman and how is she connected to Chelsea? In the meantime, Chelsea is wrestling with her own demons. Her younger brother is missing, or is he? The reader senses that Chelsea is not telling the whole story. As the book unfolds, the fate of the missing brother becomes clear as does Chelsea's guilt and depression. As each girl tells her story, the reader begins to understand how they are connected and slowly their narratives move to unite the girls.

I liked this story and I especially liked the black and white photographs interspersed with the text. In fact, I would have liked more photos. My favorite was the final photo of the book, a symbolic depiction of hope for the girls' future. In general I felt that Miya's narration was stronger than Chelsea's, and I found Miya's more interesting, especially her description of the various Gothic Lolitas she sees on the streets. If you don't know what the Gothic Lolita style is, picture a Victorian Little Bo Peep, or better, check out the book Gothic and Lolita, so you can see the wide range of styles that make up this Japanese fashion trend.

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