Seventeen-year-old Cat is living every teenager’s dream—she has her own apartment on the Lower East Side and at night she’s club kid royalty, guarding the velvet rope at some of the hottest clubs in the city. The night with its crazy, frenetic, high-inducing energy—the pulsing beat of the music, the radiant, joyful people and those seductive white lines that can ease all pain—is when Cat truly lives. But her daytime, when real life occurs, is more nightmare than dream.
Having spent years suffering her mother’s emotional and physical abuse, and abandoned by her father, Cat is terrified and alone—unable to connect to anyone or anything. But when someone comes along who makes her want to truly live, she’ll need to summon the courage to confront her demons and take control of a life already spinning dangerously out of control.
Both poignant and raw, White Lines is a gripping tale and the reader won’t want to look away.
Unflinchingly Dark Depiction of the 1980s Club Culture
On the surface, White Lines is every bit the heir to novels like Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, and it's even set in roughly that era. There's the same pompous sense of style, the flair and snobbery and focus on what people are wearing. Money, drugs and alcohol flow with abundance. Parents flit through only to provide money and housing to their children, too busy with their high society lifestyles to actually parent. Immediate gratification is the main goal of these kids' lives, with questions of the future put off as something to deal with at some later date, as though the problems will melt away.
If what you want from White Lines is a depiction of the seedy club scene of the 1980s, then you will not be disappointed. Cat parties every night, and does a lot of drugs, though primarily cocaine as the title implies. Though she remains somewhat of an innocent in certain areas, she sees a lot and hears about even more. Her job as a promoter brings her into contact with a lot of shady people, most especially the owner of the club where she works, a man in his 40s who obviously has interest in her.
All of that is quite well done and solidly atmospheric, but it's not what sucked me into White Lines. What kept White Lines from feeling tawdry and like a historical fiction version of Gossip Girl was Cat. Obviously, Cat is messed up, raised primarily by her physically abusive mother, who constantly berated and hit her for not being the perfect little daughter. Cat's father ignored the situation, and eventually divorced her mother for a younger, hotter, more exotic woman, setting Cat up in a downtown apartment by herself.
While Cat struggles with a lot of emotional problems as a result of the physical abuse (fear of being touched), mental abuse (self-doubt), and neglect (feelings of being unwanted), she remains surprisingly self-aware. She knows she's doing stupid things and acting out, but doesn't want to stop. Though she suffers from depression and anger, she doesn't whine. Her primary emotion is rage and not self-pity, which is the thing I cannot stand from characters given every opportunity in life who choose to flush their futures down the toilet. Since I appreciated Cat's willingness to take her life at face value, even if she's not handling it well, I really rooted for her to come to some resolution and not to OD before she can grow up and find people who care about her.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The ending, however, came off a bit too rushed. It reads almost like an epilogue, though it's not labeled as such, jumping into the future and detailing what became of everyone in the short term. This skips a lot of details and character growth that would really have added to the emotional impact of the story. The sudden conclusion left me vaguely unsatisfied and unconvinced.
The Final Verdict:
White Lines is a hard-hitting story of the dark, drug-laced 1980s club scene in New York City, and will appeal to readers who enjoy the works of Bret Easton Ellis or have an interest in that era. It's a very dark, upsetting story, but a worthwhile one. I will be curious to see what Banash tackles next.
Gritty Coming of Age Tale
I admit I'm a huge fan of the 80s. I left home to attend a private university in the later 80s. During this time I discovered the nearby clubs around Salt Lake City. Along with the good times I saw other things like the drugs that could suck you dry.
I was really excited to be able to read WHITE LINES which shows us seventeen-year-old Cat who works the velvet rope at some of the hottest clubs in NYC around the same time I was attending college. Cat's vulnerability of getting close to anyone is shadowed by her 'night' self where she lets the music, drugs, and high pulsing energy of clubbing try to erase her pain. She can't handle being close to anyone and lives alone. Her father is distant while her socialite mother is verbally and emotionally abusive. Then she meets someone who might break through her wall. But will it be too late?
Loved, loved the voice of this emotionally packed coming of age story. The portrayal of the craziness of clubbing is realistic. The pounding music that vibrates throughout your whole being is one experience you'll never forget. Also I know during the 80s it was 'in' to let yourself go wild. Madonna was hot. The crazy themes that WHITE LINES shows did in fact really exist. But so did the drug use. The author doesn't hold back in showing how drugs seduce Cat and have her continue to use them to numb out her 'real' world.
One great line from the book--
...All the coke, or maybe the emotional burnout of the past day, has finally rendered me numb...
...drugs let me release everything pent up inside for so long, the way they made me feel bigger than I actually was and more numb than I ever want to be again...
I love the other characters too. Giovanni, her gay club friend, who has his own secrets. Sara, the best friend, who introduces her to the clubbing scene but doesn't 'get' Cat's fascination and burning desire to be part of this life to the point of dropping out of school. Even Alexa, the 'mean' girl who shows she's not the stereotypical nasty girl but has her own vulnerabilities and desires too.
The biggest strength of this novel has to be the voice and the emotional struggles and conflicts Cat faces. It's raw and gritty, holding nothing back. The author paints a haunting portrayal on the consequences of partying. Totally love this. Even the scene where the owner of one of the clubs tries to hit on her is very creepy. How far would someone go to be a vital part of a social scene? The answer is haunting.
What I did want to see more of though had to be Julian, her love interest. There's some places that we see glimpses of him and his attempts to draw Cat out of her shell. I wanted more.
Amazing coming of age story with an emotional punch that cuts to your very soul. Loved it!
2. Realistic portrayal of the consequences of the clubbing scene
3. Amazing coming of age story
4. Loved the voice
Besides this book being a great story, it’s laced with some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve read in awhile. That is what makes White Lines a truly amazing book.
Caitlin’s story is powerful. The fast life she lives would be envied by most scene kids in 2013. Cat just kind of floats through life, never truly knowing what the hell she is doing. Just doing for the hell of it. Living life to its fullest without much meaning. Until she meets Julian, and the hard wall she’s put up slowly begins to plummet away.
I enjoyed reading about her nightlife adventures, but the hard drug use was sometimes difficult to see. I hate seeing young people ruining their life on ridiculous shit. Even if this was the 80’s, a lot of what Banash wrote about can be applied to our modern society.
The writing is absolutely marvelous. Every word flows like a seductive song, pulling me deeper and deeper within the chapter. I seriously couldn’t get enough.