Cynthia Voigt Kathleen Leverich - Essay

Kathleen Leverich

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The forging of the [volleyball] team is the real story [in "Tell Me If the Lovers Are Losers"], and it's a compelling, immensely satisfying one. A collection of six disparate and, in many respects, disagreeable young women grows through stress and self-discipline from anarchy and infighting, past tolerance and mutual respect, to devotion and loyalty.

As with Mrs. Voigt's previous novel, "Homecoming," the theme of this book is bonding. No problem in that, but "Tell Me If the Lovers Are Losers" suffers (and to an even greater extent) from the same excesses that marred the earlier work: exaggeration of character and the sacrifice of the theme to improbable theatrics. No literary or thematic purpose is served by the melodramatic ending; on the contrary, the book is considerably diminished. And readers would be more inclined to accept the characters if their personalities were drawn in subtle shadings instead of in caricatures.

Mrs. Voigt is a wonderful writer with powerfully moving things to say. Her books, however, overcompensate for what she apparently feels are excessively subtle conflicts and an atmosphere that is too rarified for the general reader. When she dispenses with contrivances and sensationalism, her characters and scenes come alive in their own unique and exciting way.

Kathleen Leverich, in a review of "Tell Me If the Lovers Are Losers," in The New York Times Book Review, May 16, 1982, p. 28.