I read three delightful books this week: Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited, Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin, and Abby Fabiaschi’s I Liked My Life.
The Upside of Unrequited: Diversity Galore
I approached The Upside of Unrequited with some expectations because I enjoyed Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. (I devour YA, Middle Grade, Picture Books, and Children’s Literature. In a conversation with Whispering Gums, it occurred to me that maybe I am making up for all the time I missed as I started reading only from 2015.) I digress. Sorry.
Molly has had 26 crushes. While her twin Cassie is all that Molly can’t be, Molly wonders what does ‘falling in love’ mean, how does one feel while kissing, and worries about other cute ‘existential’ questions. 🙂 Their parents are moms, their brother is 16 years younger than them, Cassie’s girlfriend is pansexual, and there are other endearing things in the set up. Molly is also dragged down by the perception that she is fat. If not for the generous diversity in the book, it could have been our regular, saccharine YA. But diversity is all that matters in The Upside of Unrequited. Becky Albertalli explores body-image issues, homophobia, racism, the usual teenage angst, and offers a story that is meaningful and adorable. (Bina, this book is for you!)
…when you spend so much time just intensely wanting something, and then you actually get the things? It’s magic.
Goodbye, Vitamin: Oh-so-full of Hearts
I LOVE THIS BOOK. Imagine that I went to the rooftop and said that. I LOVE THIS BOOK.
I tried hard to not become a stalker, because I am ridiculously in love with Rachel Khong’s writing. I wanted to read everything that the woman has ever written.
As I write this I think about what I am often told, that it’s easy to trash what I loathe, but it’s sometimes hard to find the right words to argue why I love something. Goodbye, Vitamin belongs to the second category.
Ruth is home after so many years, to care for her father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. No. Please don’t stop reading. It’s not about how the family copes with the loss as Ruth’s father loses his memories. No. It’s about how they confront their demons, learn to love each other unconditionally, AND make memories. Yes. That’s the thing. It’s not about letting go of precious memories, but about making more and keeping the love-tank full without agonising about what’s lost. I love that idea. It’s comforting to slip into nostalgia, but it’s done at the rate of neglecting the present. So why can’t we channelise our precious energy into making this moment memorable! Rachel Khong brings that thought home without being preachy.
Our heroine’s voice is a melange of child-like curiosity, warmth, kindness, vulnerability, and love. I adore every character that Rachel Khong has produced. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that such people exist. But I choose to suspend my disbelief.
What imperfect carriers of love we are, and what imperfect givers. That the reasons we can care for one another can have nothing to do with the person cared for. That it has only to do with who we were around that person — what we felt about that person.
It didn’t matter what you remembered or didn’t, and the remembering — it occurred to me — was irrelevant. All that mattered was that the day was nice — was what it was.
I Liked My Life: I Liked The Ghost
I loved all the ghosts in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. After that, I love Maddy — the ghost who was a reader, who volunteered at a library, who quoted lines from her favourite books to express her feelings, who was a badass. Let me leave her that way. But she is dead. We don’t know why she killed herself when everything in her life was perfect. Her husband Brady and her teenage daughter Eve lash themselves for not knowing that their most important person was depressed. What I loved the most about the book was that Maddy was influencing their lives, scheming fruitful events from the great beyond, to clean up after herself and to enable them to let her go.
I particularly enjoyed how she communicated with them. Lyrics, planting random thoughts in their heads, sending warm vibes which her family can actually feel… (Claire, I thought of you when I read those parts. Maybe, you would like this book.) I am that sort of person. I seek solace in the belief that I receive messages and signs through unexpected sources. Hence, I enjoyed those parts in the book.
I Liked My Life is hilarious and profound. It reminds us to not take anything for granted. It wants us to make a genuine effort to choose presents for our dear ones, be there when they need us, pay attention, practise mindfulness. The takeaway could be threadbare, but that sort of reinforcement will always be necessary.
Loving a person doesn’t make them who you desire; it makes you vulnerable to their reality.
We don’t come into this world all-knowing. That’s what life is for.
When the world gives you a hard time, pick up a book and join another.
What do you think of these books? Which one would you like to read?