Thursday, January 04, 2018

Not recommended: KILL ALL HAPPIES by Rachel Cohn

Kill All Happies by Rachel Cohn came out in 2017 from Disney Hyperion.

Here's the description (the highlighting near the end is mine):

Last Call at Happies! Tonight, 8 P.M. Senior Class Only! Please with the Shhhh…. This is it. Graduation. And Vic Navarro is throwing the most epic party Rancho Soldado has ever seen. She's going to pull off the most memorable good-bye ever for her best friends, give Happies—the kitschy restaurant that is her desert town's claim to fame—a proper send-off into bankruptcy, and oh yes, hook up with her delicious crush, Jake Zavala-Kim. She only needs to keep the whole thing a secret so that her archnemesis, Miss Ann Thrope, Rancho Soldado's nightmare Town Councilwoman and high school Economics teacher, doesn't get Vic tossed in jail. With the music thumping, alcohol flowing, bodies mashing, and Thrope nowhere to be seen, Vic's party is a raging success. That is, until Happies fans start arriving in droves to say good-bye, and storm the deserted theme park behind the restaurant. Suddenly what was a small graduation bash is more like Coachella on steroids with a side of RASmatazz pie. The night is so not going as planned. And maybe that's the best plan of all.

Most people read "Coachella" and think it is a cool music festival they want to go to someday (if they haven't been already), but a whole lot of Native people cringe when they hear that word. Why? Appropriation. This is from 2014, when you could rent one of those tipis for $2200:

If you go to the website and look at the "Lake Eldorado" pages, you'll see the organizers have expanded the appropriation in even more garish ways. Obviously, these tipis invites attendees to don feathered headdresses.

I don't know who wrote the description for Cohn's book, but my reading of Kill All Happies felt very much like my reading of articles about Coachella. By that I mean it is shallow and reeks of Whiteness.

So... Vic. Vic Navarro is throwing a party.

When she's planning this big bash, Bev (she's the owner of Happies, where the party will be) tells her not to let anyone go into the theme park behind Happies. The ghosts, Bev says, will curse her if she lets anyone in (p. 43):
I'm hella scared of ghosts, just like everyone in our town. Rancho Solado was built on the original graveside of a battalion of United States Army gringos, who were killed in a minor but vicious battle during the Mexican-American War. The soldiers' campsite was ambushed by Native Americans, in cahoots with the Mexican Army, and their ghosts have been haunting the town that sprung up over their remains ever since, so we knew from paranormal activity.
We know where Vic's sentiments lie, don't we? Those poor US Army soldiers, "ambushed" by Native Americans and Mexicans. What's with that "original" remark? You know who that land originally belonged to, right?

But wait! Vic has her "Native American grandfather's dark brown hair" (p. 123):

Now I wonder: why did Rachel Cohn gave Vic that identity? It strikes me as worse than decorative. Do you see why I said this feels like Coachella?

Thankfully, reviewers at the mainstream journals didn't think much of Kill All Happies. It didn't get any starred reviews. But--it is by Cohn, who wrote Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which will draw some readers. It didn't fare all that well at Goodreads either. Dare we hope that it'll go out of print soon? Well--I hope so.

Need I say that Kill All Happies, by Rachel Cohn, gets a NOT RECOMMENDED rating?

1 comment:

Sam Jonson said...

Hmmm..."my Native American grandfather's dark brown hair"...Wonder why Cohn didn't write "glossy black hair" as white writers usually do. Maybe she knows a little about Crazy Horse (who actually had light brown hair) or something?