“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to taste strawberry now without thinking of Emma and remembering the smell of hot concrete, the sounds of a Saturday, and the blue in Emma’s eyes forever changing with the angle of the afternoon sunshine.”
While I was interested in this book, obviously enough that I would request it on net galley, I wasn’t expecting anything life-changing or mind-blowing. I was expecting a fun read, maybe something silly to pass the time. It definitely fulfilled on those expectations, so don’t worry about that. This is a FUN and FUNNY read.
What I wasn’t expecting were quotes that lanced themselves like arrows into my chest, like:
“I want to know what happened after Romeo and Juliet died. I want to know what happened to the Nurse, and to the parents, and to all the shit-stirrers who caused Romeo and Juliet to go crazy.
But nobody ever talks about the time after the great tragedy.”
This book was somehow both beautiful and simple. The writing reminds me of if you added the simplicity of Ari and Dante with the journal-writing in Perks of Being a Wallflower with the laugh out loud humor of a Talia Hibbert novel.
Phoebe Davis is a fifteen year old who does not like feelings. Her mom is constantly away on humanitarian trips (highly dangerous ones, mind you!), her dad died on one of the aforementioned trips, and she lives with her godmother Kate– aka probably my favorite character in the book. Her life is turned upside down when her best friend Polly gets a boyfriend, and she’s forced to reckon with the fact that she has no other friends.
The heart of this book is real teen problems. Googling everything you’re unsure about, not understanding how feelings work, all that jazz. Phoebe is deeply flawed, but you’re in her head, so you can’t help but want her to succeed. I think the fun of this book comes from the dissonance between what Phoebe is writing versus what she is doing/feeling. It’s an unreliable narrator but in the way that we lie to ourselves in our diaries, and that’s really fun.
All of the relationships in this book are quirky and sweet, and I personally ended up rooting for all of them. Every character is fleshed out completely, and that’s what makes it so rewarding. It reminds me of Fredrik Backman- all the characters are individual and have their own quirks and issues. It’s one of those stories that’s so weird it’s realistic.
My one critique would be about some of the side plots. They introduce a lot of things that Phoebe is considering or dealing with, and those issues (like the idea of her father and her father’s family) don’t get as neatly resolved at the end. Though, in my opinion, that worked for the book, because it resembled the messy nature of life, and how sometimes, you don’t have all the answers. Phoebe ends the book not with her life wrapped in a neat little bow, but profoundly grateful for the world around her. She’s ready to live her life and appreciate the people in it. You can tell she’s not going to stop making horrible decisions, but she’s going to be able to bounce back from her mistakes.
This book was a bright spot in my anxious daily life. I would recommend this to fifteen year old girls struggling to come to terms with who they are, or just to anyone who needs some renewed faith in love and life. I’m incredibly impressed and will be very excited to recommend this to my younger sister when she’s old enough for it.
CW: minor character death, abandonment, deceased parent, absentee parent, loneliness. anxiety, panic attacks, brief mentions of domestic abuse