all i did while reading this book is cry. in the middle of penn station for hours. in the receiving room at work. in the subway. at home. tears. everywhere. i am going to have to buy the copy i borrowed from work because my tears got on a couple of pages.
it is unprecedented.
and it doesn’t hurt that i have been blue for a couple of months now, but it also doesn’t help that this woman knows how punch you in the heart in a variety of ways with stealth and precision.
because it’s not that bad things happen to the characters. please – as a thomas hardy veteran, you can’t get me that way. and it’s not a nicholas sparks teenagers kissing in the rain kind of awwwww crying. i am not that way inclined.
it’s the little things. details. a slow build where you become sewn to the characters – conjoined at their hearts and then with a single line of uncommonly pure emotional vérité she will just slice at those stitches and cast you adrift and you won’t even see it coming. she’s like an emotion-ninja. or a sniper. she’s something ferocious and beautiful that is coming to get you.
and again marchetta is exploding the scope of the YA novel. when one of the two main characters is a woman in her forties experiencing her first pregnancy with a painful baby-daddy situation and giant bloody handfuls of family drama swirling all over, i just wonder what the teens are going to make of it. these aren’t relatable high-school relationships; there are layers of betrayal and heartbreak and years of built-up hopes and letdowns crudding up the lives of these characters. and it’s not that teens can’t understand the emotions, it just strange to me to keep writing these books that have such a broad market and audience and publishing them as teen fiction, thus cutting the audience in half.
the other central character is nineteen; the nephew of the pregnant woman, with his own woes, and the family woes the two of them share. his concerns are more universal than a potentially single-mom late-in-fertility pregnancy situation, but they are still very complicated and more than your run of the mill teen angst.
it is gutting.
and it didn’t start out that way. i had to reread the first three pages a few times because it is a confusing mass of characters’ relationships to each other, like in the bible. eventually i gave up and said, “i’m sure this will make more sense as the story progresses, à la jellicoe road.” and it did. it does. but for awhile, i was floundering and wondering “who are these people?? i thought reading saving francesca first would be all i needed to understand this one!!”
but pssst – i liked this one a lot more than saving francesca. i really liked s.f., it had a million moments where i felt touched or saddened or more human somehow, but this one lives up to the skill and promise of jellicoe road which is jaw-droppingly good stuff. this one has some teensy things that i didn’t love (all of the original song lyrics, for example, really made my skin crawl) but there is such a strength and a confidence to her writing, and the balls on her to talk politics – australian politics, to an audience that, in america at least, is going to be utterly perplexed. (quick: american teens – you have twenty seconds to tell me where east timor is)
for all of it, i recommend her to you. but particularly for what she does best – the long fuse, the slow burn, and then not one big firecracker at the end, but a string of small explosions in the heart that eventually wear you down into a teary-eyed blob of emotional helplessness. bitch.
she owns me now.
so can i stop crying now?