A bookish post? Finally — huzzah!
A little while ago, I did a post called Books That Affected Me Most in 2016. In similar vein, I thought I would talk about the books that had a profound affect on me in my teens, and tell you lovely readers about it. Because, honestly, I think about some of these books on an almost daily basis, so y’know, they must be good. (But taste is subjective and all that.)
So here are the books I’ve loved and lost — in the literal sense, I sadly no longer own physical copies of these books, which I need to rectify posthence. And, the books that contributed greatly to my love of the written word and dreams of becoming an author.
Vince and Joy
We didn’t have a washing machine for much of my childhood and teens, so a lot of Sunday evenings were spent at launderettes, waiting for our week’s clothes and linens to wash and dry. One night when I was thirteen, at a small little launderette round the corner from our flat, my mum was pouring detergent into the machine when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a book. It’s not uncommon for people to put their stuff in a washing machine and vacate the premises for a few hours, and people often opted to sit and read while their clothes tumbled and dried. However, the place was empty, and none of the machines but ours was filled.
So I picked up the book, read the first few chapters, and took it home. And I never looked back.
Vince and Joy tells the story of two teenagers in the ’80s who parted ways as quickly as they fell in love. They meet in a holiday park, and despite the whirlwind romance between the two misfits, the two ‘late bloomers’, Joy disappears in the middle of a stormy night, leaving him a sodden letter on his caravan steps, the only legible words reading, ‘I feel so ashamed.’ Fast forward through the years, Vince and Joy are living their own separate lives, navigating through family, careers, and disastrous relationships. Except, two thing keep their journeys intricately linked, Vince’s eccentric new flatmate, Cassandra, and a cat called Mooshu.
Vince and Joy is not unlike the David Nicholls’ classic One Day — in fact, I’m pretty sure it was published before the latter. It’s about the missed destinies of real and flawed people, whose lives are forever intertwined. And honestly, it made me fall in love with characters and the stories they are able to tell.
“There was no beginning, middle and end to destiny, it wasn’t neat and manageable. It was random and scary and if it wanted to it would.”
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
This book by Gabrielle Zevin was basically the love of my teenage life. With the exception of Vince and Joy, this is probably the book I think about most often.
One night after a fateful coin toss, Naomi fall down and hits her head on the front steps of her school. When she wakes up, she quickly realises that she has no memory of the last five years of her life. She doesn’t remember her boyfriend, Ace, or why she fell in love with him. She doesn’t remember her best friend, Will, or why he keeps calling her ‘Chief’. She doesn’t remember that her parents split up; her dad’s fiance or her mother’s entirely new family. Had Naomi picked tails, none of this would have happened. But, she also wouldn’t have met James, the boy with a mysterious past, who told her that he wanted to kiss her.
I would say Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is one of the best contemporary teen novels ever written. Because not only is it beautifully written, but Gabrielle Zevin does such an excellent job in realistically portraying ‘broken’ families, searching for identity, and exploring romantic relationships. There’s more than one love interest in this book, and I think it’s great at showing how teenage romance can be fleeting at the best of times.
The book is also split up into three sections and takes you on a journey of Naomi rediscovering who she is — or rather, who she was and who she wants to be. I wouldn’t exactly call Naomi unlikable, but she is a flawed character. And it’s so interesting to see her navigate through her post-amnesia life in such a believable way, witnessing how she figures herself out and actively wants to change and become a better person.
“Someday, we’ll run into each other again, I know it. Maybe I’ll be older and smarter and just plain better. If that happens, that’s when I’ll deserve you.”
Let’s Get Lost
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before on this blog, but I initially discovered Sarra Manning through the Diary of a Crush trilogy. I fell for Edie and Dylan’s story hard and fast when I was 14, and have been a Sarra Manning fangirl ever since.
However, Let’s Get Lost is a bit different from Diary of a Crush. A lot different, actually.
Isabel is a stone-faced mean girl who likes to keep everyone both at arms length and at the palm of her hand. She’s the perfect antagonist, displaying some inexcusable behaviour with no excuse for it, and doesn’t demand sympathy from the reader. However, when she meets the enigmatic Smith, she starts thinking about her identity, and realises that maybe she wasn’t born to be bad after all.
Manning does an excellent job of gradually revealing the circumstances which have led Isabel to the stage of life she finds herself in now. We’re not slapped in the face with facts or emotional manipulation, and everything is kept in context. Isabel as a character is complex, well-rounded and interesting, even if she isn’t what we’d call nice. And while there are romantic elements in the plot, it’s not the central focus of the book, and it’s really a quite poignant tale of identity, loss and hope.
“People don’t want you to be yourself, they just want you to be the person that they’ve decided you should be.”
Oh, and this novel is set in my hometown of Brighton, so big up, and all that!
Boy Meets Boy
Boy Meets Boy was my first foray into LGBTQ+ fiction.
It’s about a sophmore tudent named Paul who is from a super progressive high school that let’s their students be exactly who they want to be. Whether you’re gay, straight, lesbian or transgender, everyone lives in harmony and let’s everyone do their own thing. The captain of the football team, for example, now likes to be called Infinite Darlene, and also happens to be the homecoming queen. This is a novel very much about how things could be if LGBTQ+ people were better treated and more respected.
The real story, however, is how Paul meets Noah, the new senior in town, falls in love with him, loses him, and tries to win him back. And somehow gets involved with his ex-boyfriend, Kyle, along the way. It’s a great novel for showcasing teen problems as teen problems, regardless of whether the people involved are gay or not.
If this was your regular boy-meets-girl situation, it would have been your run-of-the-mill cliché. However, the diversity makes it interesting, and I love the Levithan always makes an effort to amplify the voices of young gay people in such a heart-warming way. It’s a collection of truthful moments in the life of a gay teenage boy (though I am not myself a homosexual male, so don’t take this to gospel) who thinks to have found the love of his life and lost him forever.
“In this space, in this moment, we are who we want to be.”
What are some of the books that defined your teens?