Jana Lanning seems to be in a rut—a loser rut, as some might call it. A graduate-school reject, she was still working at the same part-time job, still living at home with her parents, and her boyfriend seemed to be carrying on just fine without her in the life she always wanted. It was obvious to her that everybody she knew seemed to have it better than she did. And what did she have? Nothing, not a full-time job, not a place of her own, not even the love of her life. And when she suggested the idea of marriage to Darren, he dismissed it, claiming that he was still settling into his new life at a new school in a new city. Things were just not going the way she planned.
What I liked best about Jana was that she was experiencing what everybody else was experiencing in this economy—job settlements (she had to settle for anything that paid,) communal living arrangements (technically, Jana was living at her parent’s vacation house, but having to settle for a place, any place, was still the same for many,) and, the clincher of them all, the dreadful feeling that nothing will ever work out no matter how hard you try. This is a place we all know too well, a place where we feel things couldn’t possibly get any worse, and, of course, when they eventually do, we just want to say “forget it” and jump into a volcano. The worst part for Jana came when she discovered her relationship with Darren was over—but not from the source of his own mouth, but from the racy picture of him and a topless blonde on his website.
Yep, we can all join Jana Lanning as she screams to the world: why me? However, I discovered that the true courage lied in the fact that she exerted the dithering strength to get up every morning and go to work—for dying would be easy, whereas living is the real hard part.
It’s at this point that Jana starts having dreams—about Darren, about work, about things that really didn’t make much sense. The ambiguity was distressful in a way where I couldn’t see how they pushed the plot forward. Were they a reflection of her hopes, her fears, or perhaps some future insight? What was the dragon a metaphor of? Why were her dreams of knights and kingdoms?
From here on out, Jana begins to suspect that she might never move up in the company as promised and that everyone (even the co-worker who called herself her “friend”) was seeing to it. Eventually, I understood the meaning of the title; if I were accused of something stupid, I would want to be “anywhere (far, far away) but here.” And all the while, I kept hearing Jana’s voice: why me, why me, why me?
The fiery tension in that office was what grabbed my interest and captivated me ‘til the end. Suddenly, Jana’s world takes on a fast, descending, whirling spiral into a big, black hole. ¡Ay, chihuahua! You just won’t be able to move on until you know what happens.
A few minor corrections were needed here and there, but, overall, I found it to be well-written with a profound (and mysterious) impact in the end.