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Lala Surviving

Lala Surviving

Felipe Reynoso

review by Mark Heisey

“The anxieties begin to flutter and knock me off-kilter. The crowd is suffocating. My heart putters rapidly. I really must get to mental health for prescription meds and to talk to someone.”
Lala is a young woman who has a job in an LA clothing store, a blossoming romance with Sam, and who is hoping to be awarded a scholarship to attend USC. Lala also deals with anxiety and depression, and these disorders sometimes throw her curve balls, negatively impacting her decision-making abilities. However, Lala is aware of her circumstances and has medical professionals helping her cope and manage her medication properly. The retail job is very interesting to Lala, and she enjoys learning all she can about how a business operates. It also helps that she gets along well with her colleagues, and the whole group of employees is forming a tight bond. With the passing of a coworker and Lala’s father, Lala’s group of friends, family, and mentors help her not only to survive but thrive. When Lala receives news about getting the scholarship, she feels that it is a special moment that she knows her dad would have loved. At the same time, she and Sam are becoming very committed to each other.

Reynoso writes with a compassionate and optimistic outlook. The protagonist deals with mental issues that can have dramatic and far-reaching consequences on her life and the direction it takes. This hopeful narrative from Reynoso easily brings to mind a book that deals with a character with similar mental issues but approaches them in dramatically different ways. I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid features a narrator whose boyfriend, Jake, also struggles with mental illness. The difference between these characters is that Reynoso’s heroine recognizes her mental difficulties and surrounds herself with supportive and helpful people while seeking proper medical treatment. Jake, on the other hand, becomes increasingly isolated, and his mental issues eventually break him and cause great harm to others. Although the two novels share similar subject matter, they couldn’t be more tonally or thematically different.

Technically, Reynoso’s novel employs concise sentences without much elaboration or attempts at lyricism in exchange for a well-paced and easy-to-read story about a relatable young woman living an ordinary life with which many readers can identify. Lala is not looking to be a pop star, famous athlete, or military hero. She wants a good job, a solid relationship with her partner, and mental stability. The story is a classic example of the slice-of-life genre, which covers the mundane experiences of ordinary people. This genre explores realistic representations of what everyday life is like for someone in that moment. It focuses on the particular time in which the story takes place. Typically, books within this category are not about the most dramatic nor intense circumstances, nor are they meant to be vehicles for the author to give deep, philosophical discussions about the biggest questions of life. Instead, they major on the typical and not the extraordinary, giving readers a relaxing and relatable read with just enough stress in the life of its characters to make the storyline engaging. For those readers who enjoy this type of story, the plight of Lala and the people who surround her will bring a good deal of comfort and a feeling of being included in the ordinary life of someone readers are just getting to know.

Lala Surviving