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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Ladybug by C.J. Michaels is a literary fiction novel that follows its main character Michèle on a delinquent but mature pseudo-Bildungsroman. Michèle is the embodiment of Michaels' ladybug, a metaphor connecting the insect to human behavior that is also occasionally applied to other characters, including the Black Widow and Praying Mantis. From our ladybug comes a first and third-person point of view wherein drug-fuelled escapades, relationship pitfalls, sex work, travel, and all manner of taboos are addressed through a combination of formats, the most common of which is a conversational narrative that glides between past and present tense. These are usually written into vignettes that imitate a stream of consciousness but can also be presented as journal entries and even monologues. Each chapter is introduced with a quote, song lyric, or a philosophical musing that ties in with the deep battle between head and heart.
Ladybug is literary fiction in its truest sense, written in such a way that it feels like a factual reporting with a patina of fictionalization. C.J. Michaels achieves this by allowing Michèle the freedom to be brutally honest and emotionally charged throughout, even when it becomes clear that the narrative might be unreliable. I enjoyed the way other characters were portrayed. All are flawed and all come across as authentic. Charlie and his cavorting with cocaine and prostitutes reveal as much, if not more, about the narrator's own frailty in these connections as those that surround her. These depictions extend also to the country of Spain as it comes to life in vivid detail. Ladybug is neither a swift nor a light read, but those who enjoy getting lost in troubled minds and intelligent fiction will find that Ladybug ticks all of the right boxes.