Author: Allegra Goodman
Publisher: Random House LLC
Publication Date: June 13th
The Chalk Artist is a pleasantly surprising, heartwarming yet unconventional novel of love and video games.
Tension arises in the love affair of a young artist for whom nothing is permanent and his girlfriend, a teacher who believes that things are meant to last by the New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist.
This is a compelling love story between two very different young people: Collin, a disarming chalk artist who thinks nothing of erasing his dazzling work, and Nina, an idealistic teacher who struggles every day to make a lasting impact on her students. Wanting Collin to realize his full talent, Nina warily introduces him to her powerful father, who owns the most cutting edge virtual reality game company in the world. Add to this a brilliant but unstable pupil of Nina’s who is gaming obsessed, and you have contemporary life caught in the crosshairs by one of our most charming and socially astute literary voices.
What I Liked: I loved most of the characters in this book. Though they have their flaws, Collin, Nina, and their friends and students are all refreshingly likable. Many of us can relate to Nina’s nervous dedication and Collin’s aimless artistry. I also felt myself growing attached to side characters like Nina’s video game-addicted student, Aidan and his twin sister, Diana. I appreciate how Goodman made each and every character a complete person, with their own important storylines. For example, though she was merely the twin sister of Aidan, I found Diana to be one of the most poignant and relatable characters in the novel. At first, she hides her sensitivities and insecurities behind a hard exterior. However, she develops into a loving and confident girl who works to change her life and the life of her brother.
Also, about the romance: The relationship between Collin and Nina was fluffy yet real strong, and occasionally rocky. I am admittedly a big fan of fluffy romance, and this one did not disappoint. If you enjoy cute relationships, I think you’ll be satisfied as well.
I also loved Goodman’s accurate portrayal of the difficulties of teaching. Scenes that take place in a classroom remind me of my days as a high school student and allow readers to sympathize with their teachers. Because Nina is an English teacher, Goodman frequently references poets and writers such as Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Thoreau. I enjoyed how the quotes she references seamlessly connect to the plot of the novel.
Lastly, I enjoyed Goodman’s inventive descriptions of virtual reality video games, and how impressively she juxtaposed them with literature and descriptions of nature.
What I didn’t like: While reading The Chalk Artist, I wished that Goodman had made the “fight” between “real life” and video games more nuanced. Arkadia, the novel’s fictional video game company, is stereotyped as an evil corporation run by meticulous and controlling bosses. The lesson of the novel is that users must turn to books and unplug their game consoles in order to truly live. I found this a bit absurd and would have preferred to see an novel where technology and art can work together in harmony.
Do I recommend: Overall, yes. If you enjoy romance yet want something more modern and inventive, you will enjoy this novel. If you prefer video games to books, I would advise against reading. 🙂