Nita – or Sniffles, to use her clown name – is Clown Girl, the heroine of the piece. She works soul-killing corporate gigs to fund her boyfriend’s clown college try-outs, and tries to focus on her [clown] art, find her missing dog, not get evicted, and shake an overly-friendly policeman.
There are a couple of negative aspects to the book. The first is a matter of preference and has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the story. Nita is dirty – not in a metaphysical sense, but physically dirty. She is always in greasy clown make-up, it is hot and she is sweaty, and she spends a lot of time pawing through or lying in piles of unlaundered costume parts. The need for her to have a good scrubbing is distracting.
The second is a matter of editing. There is one too many of every scene. There is one too many scenes involving the cop rescuing Nita, the cop trying to convince Nita that they are both outsiders, Nita’s neighbors ostracizing her because she is spending time with a cop, and Nita denying that she is dating a cop. There is one too many scenes of Nita arguing with her clown agent about selling out as a sexy clown and denying that she is a clown prostitute. There is one too many scenes where Nita removes her clown i.d., picture of her dead parents, and/or picture of her clown boyfriend, Rex Galore, from her sweaty, polka-dot bra. The whole thing needed a stricter hand with the red pen.
Despite these flaws, Clown Girl is quirkily entertaining. Drake is clever and she has created a self-contained world where her story makes sense. She is also very funny. She is funny with words and with the way she juxtaposes her clown-world with the real world. There is a dark edge to her humor, though, and it is touch and go whether the book will end in smiles or tears.
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