Book review: Derivative ‘Unbound’ falls short
February 9, 2017
As a lady who skis and reads books, I was, of course, drawn to a book written by and about a lady who skis. Steph Jagger's "Unbound” details her year-long adventure to ski four million vertical feet by chasing winter around the world. Predictably, the story becomes more than just skiing: Jagger reflects on life, love, and the challenges of participating in a male-dominated sport.
Readers have travelled this road before: accomplished, yet dissatisfied, woman chooses ambitious and athletic adventure rather than face her problems head-on at home. Initially looking for respite, determined woman instead finds philosophical meaning in the struggle of her adventure and applies it to the trajectory of her life.
This is the basic plot for "Wild," by Cheryl Strayed (New York Times bestseller), "Claiming Ground," by Laura Bell (published in 2010) and "Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback," by Robyn Davidson (published in 1995).
Normally, I would never be critical of a book that attempts to smash the patriarchy. However, this story has been done before, and Jagger's does not hold its own, simply due to poor writing and lack of creativity. Her metaphors are too contemporary and will not hold up over time. No one reading this book in 2027 will remember or care about her reference to Levi McConaughey or appreciate that she finished a sentence with "literally can't even."
Jagger's ramblings are intended to be cheeky, a la Tina Fey's "Bossypants" or Amy Poehler's "Yes Please," but Jagger is not a comedian and, alas, her jokes fall flat. She is honest, particularly about her blossoming love life, but it toes the line of being cringe-worthy.
The book could have accomplished so much more, but instead, Jagger focuses more on being self-deprecating and insecure in her body, which quickly got old. She laments for pages about how she always felt the need to step-up and compete with "the boys" in every aspect of life. While I agree with the sentiment, Jagger beats it to death.
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All-in-all, I applaud Jagger for being a vulnerable writer and finding catharsis in the journey. Her overall story is interesting, and I reveled in her descriptions of resorts I've never been to, snow conditions and gear talk. I wished for more of it; I wanted to read more about New Zealand's clubbies, the lift systems at resorts in Chile and the texture of the snow in Japan.
"Unbound" was an extremely quick read, but I found myself constantly putting the book down due to annoyances in the writing and the structure of the story. Perhaps the French said it best, “C'est toujours le même refrain" (it's the same old song).
This book is available at Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path.
Victoria Oheygi is a bookseller at Off the Beaten Path.