(Original review written on my livejournal
account)Why I Read It:
I was perusing a "Best Australian YA" list a few weeks (maybe months) ago and this title was near the top. I've heard of some of Moriarty's other books but I've never paid much attention. However, since I've discovered that Australian YA is the best thing since sliced bread, I decided to check this one out. Awesomely it was at World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto in the Bargain section for only $4.99. So I snatched it up during my Reading Week and ended up reading it very shortly after because I ran out of stuff to read while at Jacob's anyway.
Australia, once again you have not let me down. This book was great and I'm so glad I read it.
This book was so *funny*. I literally couldn't stop chuckling and sometimes just right out laughing out loud while reading (I ended up reading a few passages to Jacob because he just NEEDED to know what I kept laughing about). Some of the best parts were easily the notes left by Elizabeth's mother. I think part of it was that they were written in caps, which made her come off as even more excitable and lovably crazy. My favourite bits concerning here were easily the parts where she doesn't like the mother of Elizabeth's crush and leaves a note saying so for him to find when he goes over. The REASON why she doesn't like his mother is even more hilarious.
Along with all the funny times though, there are plenty of serious and heavy moments as well: Elizabeth's pen-pal's concerns about giving up her virginity to her boyfriend and Elizabeth's loneliness in the wake of Celia running away to name a few. There are a few more instances, but at the risk of being spoilery, I will refrain from writing them down. Anyway, the sadder parts of the novel balance very well with the hilarious parts, and they never feel like they were randomly inserted into the story, which is great.
As well as having all these funny and sad bits meshing together, there are also a ton of warm-and-fuzzy bits; the frosting on a very delicious cake of a novel. I mostly got these feelings when reading Elizabeth and Christina's letters to one another. Despite only getting to see their friendship grow through letters (even after they get to meet each other) it felt totally believable, and as I mentioned above, made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I loved it.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how this book was written: epistolary style. The story is told through letters to other characters (such as the notes Elizabeth's mom leaves for her, or Elizabeth and Christina's correspondence). Moriarty steps it up a bit though: while this isn't completely clear, it appears as if Elizabeth composes letters for herself (probably in her head?) to reflect her thoughts, such as a missive telling her to get real, her crush is never going to like her back, from The Cold Hard Truth Association. Not only does it give the reader insight into the reader's mind without breaking the epistolary style, but they were hilarious and felt very authentic in regards to how a teenager thinks.Final Verdict:
I loved this book. It was laugh-out-loud funny, but it was also sad (without feeling contrived), and it had lots of warm-and-fuzzy moments as well. I don't have much experience with epistolary novels, but I found that the style worked wonderfully for this novel and despite the confinements of it, all the characters felt developed and like very real, quirky people. Even though the other books in this series doesn't follow the same characters, I'm still so very excited to read the other books in this series.