It’s September when good girl Via Sorenson stumbles into a Seattle strip club, drunk and alone on her twenty-first birthday. Matt and Nick—best friends, bandmates, and bouncers—do their best to shield her from their sadistic cocaine-trafficking boss, Carlos. They don’t realize her daddy issues come with a forty-million-dollar trust fund and a legacy she would do anything to escape.
She is actually Violetta Rabbotino, who had been all over the news ten years earlier when her father, an acclaimed abstract artist, came home in a rage, murdered her mother, then turned the gun on himself. Young Violetta was spared, hidden behind the family Christmas tree, veiled by the mysticism of its pretty lights whose unadulterated love captivated and calmed her.
Now, desperate to shed her role as orphaned victim, Via stage dives into a one-hundred-day adventure with Matt and Nick, the bassist and drummer of popular nineties cover band Obliviot. The rock-and-roll lifestyle is the perfect distraction—until she is rattled by true love. As Christmas looms closer, her notorious past becomes undeniable. How will she ever untangle herself from her twisted string of pretty lights?
I’m surprised by my own four star rating for Please, Pretty Lights. There was a point about halfway through where I predicted two stars, or even the dreaded one. Not because of the writing–no, Ms. Zajac wields her pen masterfully. This book is much darker and grittier than I expected, even considering the description above, and there was a point when I just wasn’t enjoying it. As you can guess, though, the way the book concluded changed my mind.
There were a lot of things I liked about this book. For starters, the pacing is excellent. I’m in the middle of a stressful, busy week and still managed to read this in one day. As I’ve already mentioned, the prose is exquisite. Zajac’s descriptions are so effective that I, someone who has never even so much as smoked a regular cigarette, managed to feel like I was intimately familiar with what doing lines of cocaine felt like. As far as characters go, Matt and Nick were both entirely loveable, despite their shady occupations. I cared about them both almost instantly. I also love how mental illness is portrayed in this book, particularly the idea of a character with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. “OCD” is so often thrown around casually, but rarely considered as a legitimate illness. It’s definitely time for us to explore it more often, and more seriously.
It was harder for me to connect with Via. Even though I accepted the reasons for her descent into chaos, as it were, I found it very difficult to believe she changed so quickly. Perhaps a longer look at pre-Hotties Via would have helped me understand her a little better. There is also a moral objection to one particular part of the story, but I will not disclose the details in the interest of remaining spoiler free. (If you’re wanting details, shoot me an email!)
Please, Pretty Lights is well-written, gritty, and incredibly poignant. However, if you’re squeamish when it comes to drug use, sex work, and other touchy subjects, it might be best for you to pass this one by.
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
An experienced feature writer, Ina Zajac is an avid people watcher, and lover of quirk and contrast. She enjoys creating contemporary characters; and is especially fond of gritty musicians, passionate artists and irreverent free thinkers. Her debut novel Please, Pretty Lights was selected as an AmazonEncore title in March 2015. In January 2016, it made Amazon’s “Literary Fiction Top 100.”
Zajac’s writing is heavily influenced by her fascination with music, art and her hometown Seattle. She does not shy away from provocative topics such as religion, addiction and violence. She also explores playful, uplifting topics related to the mystical and metaphysical. She is a fan of Jason Silva, Duncan Trussell, Alan Watts and Abraham Hicks. “Remember who you are” — the central theme of Please, Pretty Lights — comes from this universal perspective.
She has a B.A. in journalism from Western Washingnton University, an M.A. in mass communication (minor in women’s studies) from Arizona State; and studies fiction at the University of Washington.