Review: Dora: A Headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch

Book: Dora: A Headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch
Published: 2012
Rating: 4 stars

I didn’t realise until I was about a quarter of the way into this book that it was a modernised re-telling of one of Freud’s case histories: Dora. This is because I am terrible at actually reading the blurbs of books because I get concerned they’ll spoil me about the contents. Anyway, once I looked that up it made several things make a whole lot more sense.

Dora: A Headcase is narrated by the seventeen-year-old Dora/Ida; a teenager filled with angst, trauma, gender confusion, and familial issues. She has been made to see a psychiatrist by her parents – a man she loathes, whom she nicknames Siggy and delights in torturing. She has a small close-knit group of friends, who each have their own issues but are there for each other to support and cause chaos. In essence, it’s a coming-of-age story. Dora detaches herself from the world around her by recording everything, which is both her downfall and her saviour.

Yuknavitch’s writing is short and abrasive; you will either love it or hate it. Luckily, I fall into the former category. It is a style that reminds me of Tom Spanbauer, which adds up as they are both Orgeon-based writers who are associated with Chuck Palahniuk (Palahniuk was a student of Spanbauer and wrote the introduction to Dora: A Headcase). Some people will see the writing as pretentious and self-involved, which isn’t wrong, but it works. Our narrator is a troubled seventeen-year-old, in what world would she not be pretentious and self-involved? There’s not a lot of character development and the ending is somewhat of a deux ex machina, but it just hooked me. It’s explicit and grotesque and sad and hopeful. It was a random selection from the library shelf, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for other works by Yuknavitch.

It’s a movie about everything. This world we live in. The bodies we’re stuck with. The lives we get whether we want them or not. How hard you have to work just to get through a fucking day without killing yourself

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