Sykosa: Part I by Justin Ordoñez

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Sykosa by Justin OrdonezSykosa by Justin Ordoñez

Series: Sykosa #1

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sykosa (that’s “sy”-as-in-“my” ko-sa) is a junior in high school. She belongs to an exclusive clique of girls called the “Queens.” The leader is her best friend Niko. Their friendship has been strained lately because Tom—Sykosa’s first boyfriend boyfriend—has gotten all serious about making her his pretty Prom princess. That is if he ever gets around to asking her. Before Prom, there’s a party at Niko’s cottage where parental supervision will be nil. He wants to have sex. She doesn’t. He sometimes acts like that doesn’t matter.

It matters.

Sykosa has a secret she has never told anyone about. Although, some people—Tom included—know anyway. It happened last year and it was big and she’ll cry if she talks about it so she’s done talking about it, okay? Never mind, it’s nobody’s business. Except it keeps happening, and it never stops. She doesn’t want to deal with it. He does. She sometimes acts like that doesn’t matter.

It matters.

Over at Reader’s Den, the founder, Tiffany Cole wrote a review for this book (which can be found both here at Goodreads and at Reader’s Den), and that’s how I learned about Sykosa. When I first read the review, my interest was somewhat piqued as being “YA for the +18 crowd” (finally!). However this TL;DR article author Justin Ordoñez posted at Reader’s Den turned me off, and since I’ve been drowning in books I want to read lately, I figured I could hold off on it.

(Wow, that was a lotta links. O_O)

That, obviously, did not happen.

In the article, it is mentioned that the ebook was being sold for 99¢ for the week. 99¢ is like… free. I consider that free. And, I don’t know if I’ve made this very clear, but I AM A BIG FAT SUCKER FOR FREE THINGS. By all rights, this book hit my FREE shelf because of that offer. I sat on it for a minute while I finished Paradox – The Angles are Here, my ebook read. But then I needed another ebook to fill the void it left behind.

Enter: Sykosa.

This is her story. This is her life.

Sykosa is a junior at the Academy, an Archdiocese-run high school. Her clique, called the Queens (derogatorily, the Bukkake Queens), is comprised of her influential loyalty to her best friend, Niko, a total wreck of a girl; and Star Sluts 1 through 3; all Asian. She smokes. She meets Tom, the hot guy who saved her, behind the chapel every day. She jerks him off. She’s still a virgin. She wants to have sex. She wants to go to Prom. She’s special! She and Niko are damaged. She butts heads with her parents. She has trouble breathing when she realizes the one-year anniversary of the [Blackness]. is just around the corner.

There is no way of simplifying Sykosa’s life. Why is she in the Queens? Why is she friends with Niko? Why did she start smoking? Why does she meet Tom? Why does she want to lose her virginity to him?

This story isn’t very linear.

It begins at the Prologue, set in Sophomore year. But this is a story about Sykosa in junior year, isn’t? Well, really, this is a story about Sykosa’s life. From preadolescent “rubbing” with Niko to hiding in the last stall while Donna talks about having gotten raped by Mike Holler. It’s all in there somewhere. Especially since the one-year anniversary of the origin of the blackness is coming, at every turn, a backstory lies underneath her days.

When Niko3.0 (more about that later) (not really) invites her for the millionth time to Coeur d’Alene, the cottage that will host an unsupervised superparty, Sykosa expects her parents to say no for the millionth time, too. When that doesn’t happen, pretty much all hell breaks loose. All Sykosa really needs to know is if she will find herself in all the broken-loose-hell or just succumb-to-the-blackness.

That’s my segue into the (usually) more critical aspects of the review. Justin Ordoñez has a style. I’m not sure what it is, though, because the desultory Sykosa has her teeth so deep into this novel that it’s all her. I can’t see Ordoñez in it anywhere. (At least, those are my hopes. I see no reason to doubt it, though.)

As such, it’s very teenage girl-y.

It jumps from issue to issue like Niko jumps from boy to boy. It backtracks and contradicts itself. And, thanks to Sykosa’s trauma from the last year, it skips over anything that has to do with the blackness. In fact, a third of the way into the book, Sykosa delves into memories from sophomore year, which explain a lot from junior year but also requires further explanation from preceding years and then brings questions of its own (that are mostly answered, thank God). The intermission ends with some really great resolve between Sykosa and her mother that I think is essential to teenagers, especially age 16-17, like Sykosa is. It’s not important to cure everything, just to see it from others’ perspectives.

That being said, part three picks up where part one left off–right in the middle of the party weekend: Day Two. Sex(?) with Tom. Drinking. Boys. Other drugs. Love. Love? What about Prom? Yeah. Those are here concerns here. Not so much Mother Superior, the rumors about her and Niko, Kana being gone, arguing over swim and Model UN…

Sykosa reminded me so much of high school that I cringe whenever I remember it. The characters were realistic (a little too realistic, sometimes), and the circumstances believable. Very much character-driven. And true-to-life, at that. (Sophomore year seems to be the ticker for everyone, huh? It birthed something black for me as well.) It was refreshing to get a glance at realistic teengers’ lives for me, (especially considering I felt the need to rant about it at Reader’s Den. Someone heard my prayers, a-fuckin’-men!).

My main concerns lie in, outside of Sykosa, what does Ordoñez’s writing feel like?

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