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More than anything, Sykosa is a character-driven story. It’s very close to being a slice-of-life novel, in that, though there is an underlying plot and a back story the main characters are often too afraid to talk or think about, most of the story comes across as just a sample of Sykosa’s life from both junior and sophomore year of high school.
One could say that the plot is Sykosa’s affection for Tom, how she copes with the ‘blackness’ brought forth from whatever terrible event happened her sophomore year, and how she handles her friendship with Niko, her troubled best friend. Still, it’s not a solid plot with a specific conflict and end, though part of this may be because Sykosa is a two part story and the first book is part one.
I like to think of Sykosa as a coming-of-age novel, with the rites of passage being sexuality, betrayal, forgiveness (or a lack thereof), and simply growing up and taking each day as they come. Author Justin Ordonez is truthful and blunt with his portrayal of Sykosa and Niko’s lives. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything, from cursing to drug usage to the derogatory forms of sexual terms. With that said, I can understand how Sykosa can rub some the wrong way. It doesn’t rub me the wrong way because I’m open-minded and nineteen, meaning I still clearly remember what it was like to be obsessed with boys, completely out of touch with your parents, and unsure of where you fit. Heck, I graduated from high school a year ago.
I really connected with Sykosa. Just like her, a terrible ‘incident’ happened my sophomore year. Everyone liked to pretend said incident was an accident (I brought it upon myself) and that it never happened, but after that I wasn’t the same. I started to feel the ‘blackness,’ or an emptiness that couldn’t be filled no matter who I latched on to or how much the ‘pep rally’ in my head tried to silence my negative, anxiety-fueled thoughts.
Junior year, I moved to a new place, but I was left with the blackness, and the blackness didn’t really disappear until senior year, when I let someone who finally loved me for me into my life and learned to accept myself. Basically, what I’m getting at is the characters were very realistic, and their reactions to their circumstances – Sykosa to the mystery ‘incident’ we readers only get bits and pieces of; Niko to the problems with her parents – made sense to me. In a novel that is primarily character-driven, that’s an excellent accomplishment.
I really want to learn more about the incident and how Sykosa’s relationship with Tom and Niko progress, so part two will definitely be on my to-read list.