Book Review: Wreck and Order

“Wreck and Order,”

by Hannah Tennant-Moore

Publication: Hogarth; November 8, 2016


A boldly candid, raw portrait of a young woman’s search for meaning and purpose in an indifferent world

Purposefully aimless, self-destructive, and impulsively in and out of love, Elsie is a young woman who feels lost. She’s in a tumultuous relationship, is stuck in a dead-end job, and has a relentless, sharp intelligence that’s at odds with her many bad decisions. When her initial attempts to improve her life go awry, Elsie decides that a dramatic change is the only solution.

While traveling through Paris and Sri Lanka, Elsie meets people who challenge and provoke her towards the change she is seeking, but ultimately she must still come face-to-face with herself.

Whole-hearted, fiercely honest and inexorably human, Wreck and Order is a stirring debut novel that, in mirroring one young woman’s dizzying quest for answers, illuminates the important questions that drive us all.

My Review:

“Wreck and Order” is one of those novels that I wish I could write some incredibly gripping review about. The writing is outstanding, but beyond that, I’m not sure why I spent 45 hours of my life reading this today. And let me elaborate on the 5-hour thing… This paperback is only 290 pages long, which with the way I normally read, should have  taken me 2-2 1/2 hours at most. I put this book down several times and considered not finishing it at all, but I kept waiting for some moving, “aha” moment. Well, that moment never arrived. However, although I was not a fan of this novel, it raises a lot of questions about girls as they are growing up and about young women as they are trying to discover their place in the world. 

Elsie’s mom left her father for another man when Elsie was in the 6th grade, and Elsie chose to stay with her father. No problem here, I did the same thing… Anyway, Elsie and her Dad seemed to have a strong bond between them, but obviously, the father was very indulging, writing her huge checks so she could go off and “find herself” in Paris and Sri Lanka. Still, I have no problem with this and am somewhat jealous because my Dad would have never even considered this crap. Elsie had very few friends growing up and became known as the go-to girl for a blow job or to get laid, with multiple boys inviting her over to hang out or watch a movie, only to take her to a quiet place in the home and have their way with her – quietly – so the boy’s mother, family, or whatever couldn’t hear them. After graduation, Elsie spends a useless year in Paris, sitting in her apartment, drinking cheap wine and watching porn. This is also when she decides her life’s purpose is to translate some weird cat story into English… Don’t even ask… 

Mix all of this crap with a town called Carpenteria in California, where she meets Jared. Let me tell you about the fabulous Jared. He’s a drunk, flirts with other women, and likes to beat the shit out of Elsie while they’re having sex. It starts with him beating her with his belt, then some choking and eventually works up to him punching and backhanding her in the face. Oh, and did I mention he’s also a drug dealer and user? Perfect guy, right? The thing is, Elsie loves it, asks for it, internalizes it and mulls it over, and finally determines that she loves this man. At one point she moves to New York and meets a nice, normal guy…  But because she never has an orgasm during sex, she ends up driving both of them crazy and he leaves her. Throughout her travels, times with Jared and times with Bryan, we are graced with flashbacks of meaningless, random sex, staged rapes, and so on. I would like to say that something clicked in her or moved her in some way during one of her trips to Sri Lanka, but no, it did not happen. 

I will try to reign in my opinions for a moment and tell you what I did see/learn/feel while reading this novel. Elsie needs therapy and most likely, medication. But seriously, this is the story of a young woman with absolutely zero self-worth. She associated love with sex, violence and abuse. Normalcy was boring to her, therefore, she pushed it away. From her teenage years forward, Elsie’s only image of herself was a sperm receptacle, rarely experiencing any sexual pleasure of her own, yet somehow gaining fulfillment from these meaningless and abusive sexual encounters. She was graced with a great journalism job with decent money, but it was boring. She got to travel to Paris at 18 for a year, but it was boring. This is the story of a spoiled young women that needs to find a great therapist and some sort of sex support group. 

Those that typically read my reviews are not used to such a negative review from me, however, this novel just frustrated me. Author Hannah Tennant-Moore is an incredible writer with a wonderful way of illustrating prose and language. This could have been an excellent novel if Elsie would have learned just one lesson at some point in the novel. Instead, the ending left me with the feeling that she will continue going through life asking Daddy for checks and having creepy sex with creepy men.  

Learn more about author Hannah Tennant-Moore by visiting her web page. 

Purchase “Wreck and Order” on Amazon. 

*I received a copy of this novel from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 


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