It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Australian literature. I read as much of it as I can even though they’re hard to come by and it annoys me to no end that it doesn’t get the exposure it deserves. Anyway, going into this book, I was a little wary because of the blurb but really, all that worrying was for nothing. I should know by now that I can always count on the Aussies to deliver.
You know those rare contemporary books that you come across sometimes that resonates deep within you? This is one of those books for me. It was beautifully written, the characterization was on point, Buzo made them feel just as real as you and me and it was hilarious at times but also grounded with this sense of nostalgia (for me). Because if you’ve lived through adolescence and early adulthood, then you’ll identify yourself with our main characters, Amelia and Chris.
15 year old Amelia works at ‘The Land of Dreams’, also known as Woolworth’s where she quickly becomes good friends with her trainer Chris who is 6 years older, he chats with her about books, society and everything else while the rest of their workmates just gossip. It’s not long before Amelia finds herself head over heels in love with Chris, the only way a young teen can. She obsesses and fantasizes about him, he’s the centre of her world. More importantly, Chris doesn’t treat her like a kid. He listens to her and values her input. They have amazing conversations about things she doesn’t talk to anyone else about. Not to her parents, her friends and certainly not to boys of her age.And for Chris, of all the people he works with, Amelia is his favourite one to talk to. Basically, she’s the ideal woman he’s looking for. If only she was a few years older.
“You’re pretty passionate about your unhappiness, aren’t you, Chris?”
I looked right back at her and said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
I could relate so much to Amelia. Some of her pages were hard to read because her voice was so real and bursting with the passion, anxiety and frustration of a 15 year old. It felt so achingly familiar and I just wanted to reach through the pages and assure her that everything would change, that things would settle down and you’ll eventually fit into your own skin. She reminded me a lot of myself at that age, both too mature and too naïve to really fit in with my own peers. And because of this, I was drawn to her from the beginning and the fact that she’s strong, independent, funny and “even takes the goings-on of fictitious characters personally” made her an easy character to love. There’s this one particular quote of Amelia’s that really struck me and that’s this:
“I am getting nostalgic about this night and it hasn’t even finished yet.”
I do that all the time. I’m always fantasizing and scripting my own life as it’s happening. I’m someone who prefers to still live inside her own head.
Chris is one of the most realistic 21 year old male characters I’ve seen in a YA or NA novel, completely charming in this self-absorbed, slacker kind of way. He’s at a vulnerable time in life, standing on the threshold of real adulthood, about to finish college but not sure what to do after, living with his parents due to financial issues, fixated on a broken relationship and on a quest to find the Perfect Woman, feeling inadequate and insecure and envious of those who seem to have life all figured out when he’s stuck in this rut. He parties with his friends, works and studies enough to get by and is lately prone to moping around waiting for something ‘life-changing’ to happen. And I believed every word of his messed up, self-loathing voice. All this might make him seem like an unlike-able character but no, Laura Buzo writes him so well that his kindness, humour and intelligence still shines through and you can’t help but like him. He’s one of those people who fills the room with their presence. Loud, very intelligent, extroverted and fun. Chris is a guy worth swooning over 😉
“Bottom line is — I can’t run my own race. I’m constantly checking what’s happening in the other lanes.”
Even though the age difference between them is massive, Buzo makes you wish they could work it out somehow (even though you know that’s unrealistic and gross). I guarantee you will find yourself rooting for them even though you know you shouldn’t because despite their shared interests, at the end of the day, Amelia is a kid and Chris is… not.
I’ve been that 15 year old girl crushing fiercely on an older guy and right now, I am that college kid staring down my semester and fast approaching graduation and thinking to myself “what in the world am I going to do next?”. So I both smiled and cringed at some of the things Amelia said or did. And I sighed and shook my head sadly at some of the things Chris said and did.
“The yawning six-year chasm between my age and Chris’s is not the only fly in the proverbial ointment of this “loving Chris” business. I’m not even sure what “getting” Chris would involve; all I know is I want him. I want to be enfolded by him somehow, and to possess him. To have unfettered and exclusive access to him all the time. To feel how I feel around him all the time. To know that he loves being around me too. To feel more of his skin on my skin.”
I loved this book for its realistic approach, for its sadness and nerdy coolness and how easily Laura Buzo touched on some deeper issues. Written smartly, the story talks not only about love and life but also about feminism, literature and society. I did not expect this to be a thought provoking book but it is.
Another reason I loved this book was because of its ending, which is really the only possible ending that was right. It’s one of those books where you wish for completely different circumstances for the characters and yet, you wouldn’t want to change thing. It showed that sometimes, not getting what you deeply desire can be good for you and it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.
I could go on and on about how perfect this book is but I’ll wrap it up for now. Bottom line is I simple loved the book and I highly recommend it. I promise you won’t regret it.