Alright friends, I did it again. I judged a book by its cover and decided to read The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora because I thought the artwork was absolutely beautiful. I finished this debut novel last week and am still thinking about it, which to me, is the mark of a good book.
The story follows two childhood friends, Abby and Elise, who reconnect in their late 20s at their high school reunion. Abby, after having dropped out of college, has been living with her parents and working as a cashier. Elise, on the other hand, is a successful Hollywood actor.
Right away you (the reader) know that something isn’t quite right with their relationship. Sure, they’ve drifted apart—this is normal for people to do after high school—but Abby still seems to know everything about Elise. The entire story is told through Abby’s perspective, and it quickly becomes evident that she has some sort of obsession over Elise. She’s been keeping tabs on her and her career in a way that no normal fan would.
At the reunion, Elise invites Abby to come visit her in California. She remembers that her childhood friend has unique artistic abilities, and thinks a change of scene would help her for a while. Abby has always been able to create vivid artwork based on her dreams, which comes into play later in the novel. After hearing the invitation to visit, Abby surprises everyone when she uproots herself and spontaneously arrives at Elise’s house.
From this point on, The Paper Wasp begins to explore their friendship (again, only from Abby’s point of view). It looks at their surface-level friendship—two girls hanging out, having drinks at a restaurant, giggling about boys—as well as the sometimes dark aspects of female friendship: jealously, resentment, and lies.
The writing is very vivid, almost lyrical at times, and extremely detailed. It’s easy to get lost in the author’s writing. As a reader, there was no shortage of fuel when it came to picturing characters or settings. The writing style is by far the best part of this book. It will leave you in a dreamy state, which is powerful, given what happens later on in the story.
The author has an incredible way with words, and evokes imagery in the reader’s mind without them having to strain their imagination at all. I didn’t even have to think twice when picturing scenes in this book because everything was so beautifully obvious. This is one reason why I think The Paper Wasp would be a great book club pick; discussing imagery throughout the novel would no doubt be interesting.
I’ll admit the plot is a little strange, and when I finished I had that sense of “what did I just read?” It starts off well, but quickly spirals out of control. This might sound off-putting, but I think it perfectly reflects both characters, and how their lives begin to change once they live together. As I mentioned, it is the kind of story that leaves you thinking for a few days afterwards.
I’m not entirely sure who I’d recommend this book to. It would likely make for some wonderful book club discussions, but only if the readers are truly invested. If you enjoy modern literary novels, give this book a try. Or, if you want something that will leave you thinking, it’s worth picking up.
The Paper Wasp will be available on June 11, 2019, and can be bought wherever books are sold. Thank you to the publisher for an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley.