Skip to main content

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls

Review

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls

In her first novel, Lauren Karcz writes from the point of view of an artist, Mercedes Moreno. Well, at least she still feels like an artist, even if she hasn’t created any art in a year. Her drought of creativity comes right in time for the rest of her world to begin to crack apart. Her abuela is dying, her mom is gone and she’s in love with her oblivious best friend, Victoria. Still, art somehow keeps finding her in the oddest of places, like a piano abandoned on her front lawn and a mysterious new neighbor, who introduces her to the even more elusive Estate.

At the Red Mangrove Estate, anything is possible. Mercedes finds art inside herself from places she never knew existed, and creates wonders greater than anything she has made yet. But none of this magic can leave the Estate. As her life continues to fall apart, she must decide which world she will live in: the perfection of the Estate or the mess her life was becoming.

"The combination of tragedy, love and a lost identity is not new to the writing world, but Karcz’s version of it is enticing because of her complete indifference to reality."

THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS is not a typical story. It does not tell a tale, or explore an extended plot. It is the discovery of a girl’s self, in that unique way that each individual has. Instead of following the actions of the story, Karcz somehow records the movements of Mercedes’s mind. Her thoughts are fleeting and different in the way only an artist’s are, but they are captured in such clarity that I never doubted what I was experiencing. Truly, reading this novel was like entering someone else’s world in every possible way.

Throughout the novel, Mercedes goes on the journey of self-discovery that everyone must take on at some point in his or her life. The combination of tragedy, love and a lost identity is not new to the writing world, but Karcz’s version of it is enticing because of her complete indifference to reality. Everything seemed like it was happening to me, yet simultaneously as if it was written in some parallel universe where everything was the same except minuscule changes that made all the difference.

While there were not many defining events in the story to build the plot, the writing was impeccable. In too many contemporary novels, each description is identical and each event is stereotypically familiar. Yet in THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS, everything is so unique that being different is commonplace. From Mercedes to her sister Angela to her neighbor Lilia to her best friend Vic, each character is special and different in the same way that people in the real world are different.

Mercedes’s life is about having faith and making choices. Gradually, she learns that sometimes all you need to do is to choose to believe in something impossible to learn how to make the unattainable a reality.

Reviewed by Caitlyn K., Teen Board Member on July 28, 2017

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls
by Lauren Karcz