Bookish | Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (Review)

24039396A captivating and profound debut novel about complicated love and the friendships that have the power to transform you forever, perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.

Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with mischief glinting in his eye.

Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

Personal Enjoyment: ●●●●○
Writing Quality: ●●●●○
Recommendability: ●●●●●

Like many other readers, I was attracted to this book by the tagline “This is the story of a girl, her gay best friend, and the boy in love with both of them.” Possible bisexual love triangle? Sign me up! Unfortunately, that was just poor marketing that I don’t think the book itself should be punished for. It’s actually about a boy and a girl best friend pair who find another kindred spirit in Jeremy and take him into their friend group. I would have been more disappointed had I gone into it totally blind. As it were, I read about a thousand terrible reviews before deciding to dive into this book.

So now I’m going to tell you why this book deserves zero of those bad reviews.

This book is told in first-, second-, and third-person point of view, depending on the character. I thought this was just a quirky writing style, but once I hit Sebby’s first chapter in second-person, something just instantly clicked in my head. I started looking at the point of view styles as a legitimate facet of their character instead of something used to easily differentiate between POV characters without having to give them distinctive voices. I can understand why people would be turned off by the POV shifts, but I felt it was a brilliant move on the part of the author.

Let’s talk for a minute about what this book is not.

  • This isn’t an issue book. While mental health, sexuality, race, substance abuse, and body-shaming all crop up in this book, this book does not focus on one or all of these in particular. They are treated as facets or obstacles in everyday life (aka: realistically), not as something which comes up once for the characters to struggle with and by the end of the book is “fixed”.
  • This isn’t a romanceIt does have some romantic aspects and deals with sex/sexual situations, but it doesn’t try to portray a healthy, everlasting relationship.
  • This isn’t a particularly easy read or a fairytale. There are scenes that are hard to stomach. It does not have a happy ending. There is a sense of closure, but no real resolution.

What this book is is realistic. It portrays a variety of diverse characters developing realistic relationships and friendships, coming together, falling apart, messing up, falling down, getting up again. It’s a friend-love-story.

I loved each of the characters. They were imperfect people, just trying to get through their lives as best as they could manage. And they were so diverse! Race, sexuality, body-shapes, family dynamics, mental health– everything was just drawn together so naturally. I would have liked to explore those aspects a little more on their own, but I think that has more to do with there being very little diversity in YA Lit to begin with. This book made me crave more LGBT-lit (recommendations always welcome).

I especially appreciated the portrayal of parents as equally flawed as their children, who are doing their best, but still make mistakes. Mira’s mental health is misunderstood by her parents and swept under the rug. Jeremy’s gay dads are powerless to protect him from homophobic bullying. I truly believe even Tilly, Sebby’s foster mother, did her best to love and care for him as much as she was able.

The only character I had a particularly hard time with was Peter, the English teacher who was a little bit too friendly. I had friendly relationships with my teachers in high school, but he gave me the creeps. He cared a bit too much about his students (letting them hang out in his house, or sit in his office during lunch, or giving them rides to/from school) for me to believe he was a completely altruistic character. The rest of the book felt so intentional that I don’t think it was a coincidence his storyline was left open-ended.

The only particularly unrealistic aspect of Fans of the Impossible Life was the portrayal of the foster care system. I have little-to-no knowledge of the foster care system, but even so, it seemed more like the easy scapegoat to manufacture drama by comparison to everything else in the book.

There was a definite issue with the pacing of this book. It meandered for so long and focused mostly on two characters who were mostly stable instead of the third who was falling apart behind-the-scenes. It eventually picked up, around page 280, and then I couldn’t put it down until the very end. It either needed to be shorter, or more time needed to be given to the other POV character where most of the drama was happening.

I would recommend this to anyone and everyone. It’s beautifully written with some of the best, most diverse cast of characters I’ve seen. What a wonderful debut.

alecksis.

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