IBI KASLIK playing with members of BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE and STARS to mark the launch of Skinny, at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, May 13), 7 pm. Free. 416-596-1908. Rating: NNNNN
Teen girls are the queen bees of the media right now. At the box office, the delicious bitchiness of Mean Girls dukes it out with 13 Going On 30's little-girl schtick, while the dastardly duo formerly known as the Olsen Twins play, well, themselves in the inanity of New York Minute. And the Sex And The Secondary School series Gossip Girls is a best-seller in a big-box bookstore near you.
Ibi Kaslik's Skinny offers a much more profound portrait of girlhood.
In her debut novel, the Montreal writer - who happens to be a member of the sprawling Broken Social empire - tells the brutally beautiful story of two troubled sisters. Teenage Holly is a driven athlete who pushes her body to the limits, while her older sister Giselle, a med student caught in the perpetual adolescence of anorexia, grapples with family secrets and her own self-destructive perfectionism.
The psychic inner worlds of both girls ring painfully true, at least partly because Kaslik, pissed with simplistic after-school special representations of eating disorders in the media, drew from her personal experience.
"It's a cliché, how autobiographical the first novel is, but you have to get over that," she offers on the phone from Montreal. "You have to face these things in yourself before you can grow as a writer."
The difference between Kaslik and her characters, however, is that the author's experience included playing in a band with her best friends.
When she was an angsty adolescent at the Etobicoke School for the Arts, Kaslik met two girls named Amy Millan and Emily Haines (now of Stars and Metric, respectively). The three became insta-friends in typical tween fashion and started collaborating.
"Emily and I became friends first, on the first day of school," recalls Millan, who performs with Kaslik at tonight's Rivoli launch party. "We had practice rooms at ESA, where Emily and I would work on songs, and we asked her to come and listen. She's Hungarian, and very emotional, so she started crying as soon as she heard our music. She invited us over for lentil lasagna and we've been friends ever since."
The trio started a band called Edith's Mission, which lasted till Haines decamped for Vancouver and Millan and Kaslik moved to Montreal, where they kept performing what Millan calls little hippieish shows.
While Kaslik still works on music - the launch features the debut of a pilot collaboration with boyfriend Evan Cranley of Stars - she chose the lonely pursuit of literature for one reason.
"I'm a control freak. As a musician, you have to depend on way too many people. I'd rather write. I'd rather put the words in people's mouths."
Still, she credits her artistic community with supporting her through the insular process of writing, and she's amazed by the "beautiful coincidence" that all her best friends from high school have become so successful. For their part, her musical pals, from Broken Social Scenester Kevin Drew (who was the drummer in Kaslik's grade 11 band, Quicksand, with Andre Ethier pal Christopher Sandes) to Cranley and Millan, are excited about helping Kaslik launch Skinny at tonight's show-slash-love-in.
"I've watched Ibi work incredibly hard on this book," offers Millan. "We were on tour while she was eating sardine sandwiches and pouring her soul out in a room, and she flew out to support us at every show without showing any resentment or jealousy about the attention we were getting. I'm thrilled that she can get that attention now."