Review: “Razor Girl” by Carl Hiaasen

By: McKenna Graham, Columnist

Book: Razor Girl
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Genre: Humor, Drama
Rating: Four stars
Warnings for book: sexual themes, violence

Carl Hiaasen is well known in the literary world for his hilarity and acute awareness of modern intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts. His newest novel, “Razor Girl,” stands as strong evidence to support this claim, but it took me a while to ease into Hiaasen’s groove. Certain authors require a bit longer to tune into their frequencies, but once his style and humor clicked into place for me, I found myself honestly enjoying this book.

Razor Girl is a scammer-for-hire who has taken a classic act and put a unique spin on it. You find out pretty quickly who she is—Merry Mansfield, an eye-catching redhead with an attitude that strikes you as unique and definitely a bit unrealistic. It’s safe to say that she stands out; amongst a cast of law-enforcement officers, romantic partners and business partners dealing with discourse, and very stubborn hicks, Merry takes the cake. It’s no wonder she’s the eponymous character, although not once do we get to see things from her perspective.

This, almost more than anything else, was what I admired: Hiaasen’s ability to center a story around a character without ever making you feel like she is the main character, although the book’s very title tells you she is. We see things from every point of view but hers—the most we get is a description of her actions, and even then she’s so artfully twisted into sounding like a sidelined character, she sounds like nothing more than a supporting role. This deception evolves as the plot does; through kidnappings, more scams, restaurant inspections, and murder, Merry hovers just outside the spotlight, always on the edge but never in the mix.

The same cannot be said for her supporting characters—each is constantly vying for your attention, though the third-person narration gives you a feeling of displacement and keeps you from feeling like you’re involved. Lane Coolman, an egotistical talent agent, is the first to be introduced, and the progression of plot from his perspective as we look not quite through his eyes (more over his shoulder) is undone as soon as we’re introduced to the next person. The narration continues like this, following along with one character and then starting over from the beginning with another, introducing a character and then filling in their backstory almost as an afterthought, taking its sweet time in showing you how each relates to another.

It’s ironic, then, that Merry Mansfield is the character most exaggerated and most outrageous, as she’s subdued by the distance put between the reader and her. Her character shines through nonetheless, and though I grew to enjoy it quite a lot, this point leads me to what I found distinctly unlikeable.

The characters are unrealistic and larger than life, the plot builds almost painfully slowly—I have to admit, I was pushing myself to get through the first hundred and twenty-five pages or so—and the writing every so often loses its flow, with sentences like “His meticulous fraud paid off, the BP payout being large enough to seed his current sand-dredging enterprise.” Sure, it’s grammatically correct, but it jars the flow of Hiaasen’s otherwise smooth and playful style, and doesn’t quite sound as strong as the majority of his writing.

That being said, once I caught onto Hiaasen’s style, I found myself really enjoying this novel. It grew funnier to me, the characters’ extravagance seemed less unrealistic and more endearing—or, rather, the lack of realism no longer bothered me, and began to add to the novel, and the plot picked up as soon as I could see how everything fit together. It required a bit of work to enjoy this book, but once I got past that, enjoy it I did.


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