Instead of doing a traditional book review though, I thought I’d do a list (big surprise there!) of some of the reasons why it hit me so strongly…
– The book profiles the parallel lives of two young people, Dex & Em, who meet on the night of their college graduation in the UK, sleep together (but no sex) and simply connect in a way that makes them lifelong friends. Lifelong friends with all this entails – growing together, growing apart, sometimes supporting each other, sometimes tormenting each other.
– Some reviewers labeled it “chick lit” or “beach reading” (the bright pink and neon orange cover doesn’t help) but I agree with those who said there’s something deeper to this book and less disposable as a profile of youth, aging, changing societal mores and so on.
– The book has a gimmick and though sometimes that can lead to disaster, it can also be highly effective. In this case, the gimmick is that each chapter of the book describes events on the same day of the year (July 15) from 1988 to 2006 as the two grow, age, fall in love (with others – mostly), aren’t successful, become successful, lose that success, struggle with hope and dreams and loss.
– I guess the biggest reason the book resonated so strongly is that, though the characters are a few years older than me, the book basically chronicles their changes from idealistic college students to parents who occasionally feel like they’re making it up as they go along over roughly the same timeline as my life. (Spoiler alert – I’m not saying they necessarily have kids with each other! Or that both start as idealistic new grads either for that matter.)
– Earlier this week, I mentioned my latest musical discovery, The Submarines, whose album “Declare a New State!” was created after the two main members dated, broke up, discovered they were writing songs about each other and ended up getting back together with their first album being created and mastered for them as a wedding present by a friend. With subject matter like that, the album made a perfect soundtrack for this novel and I seriously hope the movie version uses some of my favourite Submarines songs on the soundtrack! (Gotta admit I’m a bit nervous about the movie’s casting though. Hope I’m wrong.)
– I’m a bit of an Anglophile so I love a lot of British culture – the music, the books, the movies, etc – but also just some of the way that Britain feels slightly different but so familiar too. This book is just another part of that for me.
– it’s not just that the book is British but many of the references – pop culture and otherwise, – are things I remember from my own semester in the UK in 1995 and then closely following UK’s news, popular culture and so on for for many years afterwards. I mean, do most people in North America know who Kula Shaker or Shed Seven are?
– There are a lot of big twists in the book including at least one that is what I call a “Grey’s Anatomy” twist. That’s because I know it’s been a particularly emotional episode of that show when Shea comes to find me, tears in her eyes, to tell me “I can’t believe they did that!” or “I don’t know why that happened.”
– I don’t read non-fiction exclusively but the split is probably 80-20 between NF and Fiction. Yet, if I listed my 10 favourite books of all-time, more than half would be fiction. So I do appreciate fiction’s ability to make you feel emotions and be transported in a way that non-fiction rarely does.
– I’ve done this a bit with movies and music but this was the first time I can remember *really* going all Web 2.0 on a book I’d just read. I looked it up on Google and read reviews from book blogs. I went to Good Reads, I went to Library Thing. I went to the book’s official site. I searched Twitter to see who else was reading it *right now*. I “liked” it on GetGlue. I read the Wikipedia articles about both the book and the author. I watched the four short promotional clips the publisher had produced and uploaded to YouTube as well as an interview with the author and a fan review. (Don’t do this if you don’t want to have some of the book’s surprises spoiled!)
Great book. What else can I say? 😉