Dora: A Headcase

Fight Club for Girls: Dora: a Headcase, A Review

By Kristy Webster
Thursday Review Contributing Writer

It comes as no surprise that Chuck Palahniuk wrote the introduction to Lidia Yuknavitch's debut novel, Dora: a Headcase. Dora after all has been dubbed the “girl version of Fight Club.” Based on Sigmund Freud's most famous case study, Dora is a coming of age story told in a feisty, brutally in-your-face voice that manages to be beautifully offensive and even endearing.

Set in contemporary Seattle, Washington, where Ida (nicknamed “Dora”) and her group of misfit friends plunder the city with “art attacks” that include elaborate song and dance numbers at a downtown Nordstrom's and public nudity, the real showdown happens between seventeen-year-old Ida—a punk teenager with a shaved head, a deep appreciation for Francis Bacon who never leaves home without her H4N or her Dora the Explorer backpack—and the one and only Sigmund Freud.

Ida is sent to Freud by her philandering father while her mother mentally and emotionally “checks out” completely, leaving Ida to her own—often high-tech—devices. When Ida and her friends make Freud the subject of an underground arthouse flick, things take an unexpected and wild twist involving break-outs and break-ins, hand-to-hand combat and a few explosions.

Ida's observations are sharp, visceral and often darkly humorous. But the biggest surprise about Ida is her wisdom and her ability to full inhabit herself:

“Wanna know the difference between adult wisdom and young adult wisdom? You have the ability to look back at your past and interpret it. I have the ability to look at my present and live it with my whole body. Wanna know what we have in common? Dead dreams. Trust me when I say no adult likes to talk about that.

Plus how do you even know you adult humans have the right interpretations of your own lives? People are like books and movies. There are about a gazillion different interpretations. Deal with it.”

Beneath the hardcore language and twisted humor, Dora: A Headcase tells the story a young woman who wants “out of the dumb script of girl.” One thing is certain, there's heart in Dora's larger than life voice and body...a fat, messy, bloody heart.