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The Chalk Artist: A Novel by Allegra Goodman
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The Chalk Artist: A Novel

by Allegra Goodman

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The voice of the novel started as so spontaneous, youthful and fresh that I wanted it never to end. The images of the gaming world were magical and researched very well and covered 3/4 of the novel but I personally have no interest in these games, so they were lost on me. I do try to read novels about unfamiliar worlds and lifestyles but some just don't hold my attention. There was hardly a plot here, the characters were developed as best as they could in 1/4 of the novel but still they seemed not to be given much space to develop. ( )
  sidiki | Feb 22, 2018 |
In The Chalk Artist a young teacher struggles to find her footing in a classroom of students who engage in typical teen behavior when she is not able to effectively establish control. She falls in love with an artist who is not gainfully employed but tremendously talented. It turns out that the teacher is the daughter of the leader of a very successful video gaming company and thus wealthy. She persuades her father to hire the artist and persuades the artist to take the job. Corporate rivalries ensue.

Another thread of the story focuses on a set of teenaged twins, one of whom is caught up in the immersive universe of the beta version of a highly anticipated new video game being developed by the company of the teacher's father. The other twin struggles with her self image and ultimately finds a way to craft an identity that feels right to her.

The immersive video game is a key feature of the story. The effect of the game is intriguing and mesmeric, however the science of how that 3-D immersion is achieved was not well thought out or believable.

This is a well written story and would have received four stars if not for the distracting bias toward whiteness. The beauty of various women is always attributed explicitly to the whiteness of their skin. The literature that the teacher focuses on celebrates white skin. No other skin colors are mentioned except one student whose skin is described as darker than all others in the class and he is tasked with reading aloud an unpleasant piece of literature.

I also found it puzzling that the teacher, who is pretty abject most of the time, finds only one student, one of the twins, to shower with lots of extra attention (daily tutoring). She does this in order to save him from a downward academic spiral but that student is smart, privileged and white. His chief problem is his self imposed willingness to devote his energies to the immersive video game and acts of vandalism rather than do his school work.

She puts no energy into earning more about the other students. She is not at all curious about the pregnant teen who is in what seems to be a predatory and abusive relationship. She puts no energy into learning more about the other students who exhibit various behavior patterns that should be red flags. She doesn't seem to value the other students except for how they respond to her own performance or lack thereof. ( )
  Course8 | Sep 4, 2017 |
This novel's themes of immersive video games, the art and commercialism imbedded within, and how just one fine teacher saves a life, are not usually found together within the same cover. In this case, it makes for a narrative that's both dreamy and sharp. Set in the intimately connected world of a Cambridge, MA neighborhood, (with almost every familiar landmark included - yay for the Plough and Stars!), the younger characters - teacher, artist, gamer, siblings - are prone to thwarting their parents' ambitions for them. The pressures that drive them - good grades, the yearning for the creative life, recognition - are beautifully rendered. This is a book that will linger and, with some time, almost demand a second reading. ( )
  froxgirl | Jun 29, 2017 |
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Collin James is young, creative, and unhappy. A college dropout, he waits tables and spends his free time beautifying the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his medium of choice: chalk. Collin's art captivates passersby with its vibrant colors and intricate lines--until the moment he wipes it all away. Nothing in Collin's life is meant to last. Then he meets Nina. . . . The daughter of a tech mogul who is revolutionizing virtual reality, Nina Lazare is trying to give back as a high school teacher--but her students won't listen to her. When Collin enters her world, he inspires her to think bigger. Nina wants to return the favor--even if it means losing him. Against this poignant backdrop, Allegra Goodman paints a tableau of students, neighbors, and colleagues: Diana, a teenage girl trying to make herself invisible; her twin brother, Aidan, who's addicted to the games produced by Nina's father; and Daphne, a viral-marketing trickster who unites them all, for better or worse.… (more)

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