Book Review: Paulina & Fran


Synopsis from Amazon:

A story of friendship, art, sex, and curly hair: an audaciously witty debut tracing the pas de deux of lust and love between two young, uncertain, conflicted art students.

At their New England art school, Paulina and Fran both stand apart from the crowd. Paulina is striking and sexually adventurous—a self-proclaimed queen bee with a devastating mean-girl streak. With her gorgeous untamed head of curly hair, Fran is quirky, sweet, and sexually innocent. An aspiring painter whose potential outstrips her confidence, she floats dreamily through criticisms and dance floors alike. On a school trip to Norway, the girls are drawn together, each disarmed by the other’s charisma.

Though their bond is instant and powerful, it’s also wracked by complications. When Fran winds up dating one of Paulina’s ex-boyfriends, an incensed Paulina becomes determined to destroy the couple, creating a rift that will shape their lives well past the halcyon days of art school.

Crackling with bon mots and knowing snapshots of that moment when the carefree cocoon of adolescence opens into the permanent, unknowable future, Paulina & Fran is both a sparkling dance party of a novel, and the debut novel of a writer with rare insight into the complexities of obsession, friendship, and prickly, ever-elusive love.

I received this novel as a gift and honestly I don’t think I would’ve picked it up on my own. Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser is not by typical book but that’s mostly because it’s not your average novel.

Filled with details about crazy college parties at an art school that seems like a whole other world, this novel drew me in from the first page. It’s a short, quick read that follows the lives of the sexually adventurous Paulina and the elusive Fran. Paulina is who really drew me in. She’s all about having a good time and she’s constantly obsessing about how she appears to other people and in the same vain, who she surrounds herself with.

Although this is truly the story of Paulina and Fran, to me it felt more like Paulina’s story. Just as she has the ability to command a room, Paulina commands this story. At times I both wanted to be Paulina and pitied her. I wanted to know why she was so sexually curious and also wanted to shake her and make her see that the way she behaved and treated people clearly stemmed from some deeper issues she really need to deal with.

Similarly, Fran’s inability to act and go after what she wanted frustrated me. Everything she wanted was within her reach but time after time she was too scared to reach for it.

Overall, this novel was well written and the plot was perfectly paced, making me want to keep reading and know what happened next. However, the inconclusive ending left me feeling unsatisfied and angry. It was as if Glaser had set up the novel for a particular ending and then changed her mind at the last second leaving me with more questions rather than answers. I would have been fine with one loose end but instead there were 10 loose ends that had no resolution, leaving me unsettled and wishing for an epilogue or sequel.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. Although I enjoyed this novel I don’t think I’d read it again.


3 stars

Favorite Line:

All month she’d camped out by his heart with little love of her own, but a stubborn need to star in someone’s life.

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