Katie likes to believe she's invisible. It seems much safer than being exposed as she is--shy, poor, awkward. So getting up on stage in the school production of The Taming of the Shrew should be complete torture. But as Katie tells it, something totally unexpected happened when she stepped on stage: "My head exploded. I loved it. Acting hit me like a sucker punch and I loved, loved, loved it! . . . Invisible Katie became visible Katharina."
Evan Cooper is, as they say, another story. He knows just what it takes to get noticed, and he uses every one of the skills he's honed after years of being the new kid. Like tossing the keys to his father's high-end Audi to a kid he's never met, first day of school. "I have insurance for car theft," he explains to a shocked Danny. "And there's a full tank." An abuse of the power that comes with privilege and money? Sure.
But more dangerously, is his romance with Katie another version of the same thing? Or is it the real thing?
I wasn't totally sold on the sound of The Taming going in, but it was highly recommended by a good source so I thought it might be one of those guilty pleasure reads. Maybe it is for some, but not for me.
Teresa and Eric used the frame work of The Taming of the Shrew to tell an alternate story of "taming" by abuse. Unlike the Bards original there is no humor in this telling, instead they dive into the dark waters of verbal, sexual and physical abuse from both Katie and Evans alternating view points. They very carefully craft the slow entrapment of an abusive relationship, showing the slippery slide from one uncomfortable moment to the point of being constantly on guard. I especially liked how they illustrated the cycle, how Katie and Evan's past experiences came to bear on their own messed up relationship, and how hard it was for either of them to fight against those experiences.
That being said, I didn't like either Katie or Evan. Katie went from quiet and cautious to vapid and flip in a way I didn't understand. Although she's supposedly high on her relationship with Evan and the attention he lavishes on her, many of her comments and actions just seem ridiculous to me. Especially when she gets all doe eyed around Evan and makes comments like,
"Evan ordered for me and then showed me how to layer and properly fold a sizzling fajita. I felt so sophisticated...And it wasn't just about fajitas. Evan seemed to know everything about everything"Honestly? Fajitas are sophisticated?
Evan is made somewhat unlikeable from the beginning, which didn't seem fair to me. As a victim of abuse himself, I felt like The Taming would have been more interesting if it showed his struggle more clearly too. Its touched upon off and on, but for the most part he's painted the villain, until the end when suddenly I'm supposed to have sympathy for him. But by that point I was just so sick of both of them I didn't care what happened, as long as I didn't have to be subjected to it anymore.
An interesting subject matter, told in a grating way I didn't enjoy at all, The Taming missed the mark for me.
The Taming, by Teresa Toten, and Eric Walters
Published by Doubleday, January 2012
My copy kindly provided by Random House.