Frances Janvier is caught between her study machine, Cambridge-aspiring avatar and the goofy, loud fashionista with a penchant for obscure YouTube podcasts and fanart that she is in the privacy of her bedroom.
Aled Last, whose sister had been her best friend until her sudden disappearance, she discovers, is also straddling 2 worlds.
Will this discovery bring them together or push them apart forever forms the rest of the 5-hour read.
Goodreads says: 4.21
I say: (because there’s no half-stars on Goodreads)
It’s more of a 2.5 really.
I wanted more. I expected more. But, it comes down to 2 things:
1) Frances’s big secret- her goofy indoor self versus her head girl school-self- didn’t really have the punch it was supposed to have. It reminded me of this manga I used to follow called Horimiya in which the model student’s secret was that she comes home, takes off her make-up and becomes an ajhumma-babysitter for her younger brother. The consequences of her friends finding out are treated as something way more serious than a sympathy hug and occasional ribbing and in a manga, I’m ok with that sort of suspension of disbelief. But, in a 300-page novel! I need more background to understand why she’s so ashamed of herself; or as it actually came off on the page- why she’s so condescending of the rest of the school’s population that she automatically assumes they won’t understand.
Also, it’s so confusing to read the narrator describing herself exactly complying with others’ assumptions of her, while decrying that she’s so not that person. It took me back to my days of fanfiction scourging which were filled with such characters and writing.
2) Frances’s whining- When it was not about her overly descriptive goofiness, it was about how it was all her fault. I know the author was trying to make us feel for Frances by amplifying her self-esteem issues, but that’s not how it came off to me. With Frances looking down on her friends, on her school and basically everything except Universe City and Aled, it just felt like she was very very self-absorbed. She never tried to walk a second in anyone else’s shoes.
This kept showing up every time she found out something new and unexpected about the people around her- that she’d never given anybody else a chance (especially Raine), that instead she’d been blaming the world for not giving her a chance and the expected character development never occurred. I felt very disappointed that in the end, Frances remained the same as she was, with the people around her reinforcing that she’s already good enough and she should accept herself. While I have nothing to pick with that message for young people, I think we should also learn to be introspective and call out bullshit that’s stinking up the place.
BOTTOMLINE: I wanted to give it 2 stars for being as cliche-ridden as it was. But, this book has heart and a lot of lines did resonate with the teenager in me. I also love stories which are just about friendship with none of that pesky can’t-live-without-you nonsense interrupting the flow.
I would recommend this book for those working through their adolescence angst and who feel left-out and like misfits wherever they are. Don’t take it too seriously though, just focus on the fact that however weird you think you are, there’s someone weirder living right opposite your door.