three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
57-Mar-Apr-2012
By: 
Sara Levine
user_rating: 
0

A-Treasure-IslandSara Levine has a PhD in English from Brown University and is an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago. Treasure Island!!! is her first novel.

The Story: The 25-year-old unnamed narrator, a recent college graduate, finds herself trapped by one dead-end job after another. Her latest place of employment is a pet library, where animals are checked out and loaned for a specific period of time. When she happens upon a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, she becomes captivated by the fictional young hero Jim Hawkins, though she and Jim couldn't differ more. Seeing a way out of her doldrums, she decides to adopt his Core Values: boldness, resolution, independence, and horn blowing. But despite her best efforts--she mistakes selfishness for boldness and theft for independence, for example--her attempts to reinvent herself have unexpected consequences.
Europa Editions. 172 pages. $15. ISBN: 9781609450618

LA Review of Books 4 of 5 Stars"[A] wild, funny, rambunctiously surprising look at what happens when the very thing needed to shake up a life does its job far too well. ... Treasure Island may not be a model for optimal behavior, but Treasure Island!!! succeeds amply as a cautionary tale." Alison Powell

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars"[A] surprisingly hilarious premise for a coming-of-age novel such as this. ... Treasure Island!!! does feel a bit madcap at times, but it is exactly that quality, that unruliness, that makes it such an engaging read." Meganne Fabrega

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars"By making her protagonist a young woman with a history of tearing through therapists, and placing her in an environment as far as you can get from buccaneering, sea voyaging and cutlasses, she brings into sharp relief the desperation of suburban life. She also challenges the values we learn from tales of battle and independence, and the way we can use these values to rationalize and glorify rash behavior, or to avoid what's really brave." Rebecca Barry

Time Out Chicago 3.5 of 5 Stars"Farcical and phlegmatic, Treasure Island!!! strikes a particular nerve, one exposed in post-collegiate life but not confined to it. Those who've suddenly found themselves rudderless, and embarking on ill-planned adventures, will recognize their own delusions laid bare." Jonathan Messinger

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars"All this comic wrangling over Treasure Island and Core Values might be charming if the narrator weren't quite so badly behaved, but she's so self-involved, mean-spirited and tone-deaf to other people's feelings that it's hard to laugh when her actions prompt yet another madcap scene. ... If she were a pirate, we'd make her walk the plank and be done with her." Kristi Lanier

Critical Summary

Levine offers an insightful look at the narcissism that plagues our society and the never-ending quest to be somebody important, to do something big. Most reviewers agreed with the Time Out Chicago critic, who found Levine "a tremendously funny writer," whose "time [spent] around all of those grad students must have informed the hilariously self-involved character of the narrator." One exception came from the Washington Post critic, who could not get past a repetitive plot and a clueless, self-centered, and wholly unsympathetic narrator. Readers who dislike snarky heroines might want to give Treasure Island!!! a pass, but others will find the novel a cautionary coming-of-age tale well worth reading.