Author: Bill Condon
Publication Date: 8/1/11
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
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A funny, poignant, realistic story of Tiffany's first love and first job, and the inevitability of change in the first summer out of school.
School is over, not just for the year, but forever. Tiff and Kayla are free, which is what they've always wanted, but now summer is nearly at an end and that means life decisions. Tiff is hoping her job at the local paper will lead to something more, but "The Shark" soon puts her straight on what it takes to become a hard-nosed reporter like him. At home, Reggie—the only grandad she's ever known—has quit smoking and diagnosed himself as a cactus, and then Kayla hits her with some big news. And into all this stumbles Davey, who plays rugby but quotes Truman Capote, and is the first boy who has ever really wanted to know her. Tiff is smart with words and rarely does tears, but in one short week she discovers that words don't always get you there; they don't let you say all the stuff from deep in your heart.
I want to write a review of this book, truly I do, but all I keep doing is singing "Groovy Kind of Love" by Phil Collins and thinking about Aussie contemporary YA lit. "When I'm feeling blue, all I have to do, is take a look aaaaat you, then I'm not sooo blue." That's where I stop singing, lest this turn into some sort of awkwardly sexual booklove situation. It is true that Aussie YA books and I have a groovy kind of love, though. Raw Blue, Piper's Son, A Little Wanting Song, Six Impossible Things, Holier Than Thou; these books all just knocked it out of the park for me, and my favorite thing about them is that they aren't really about anything but living. While slice-of-life stories are common for every age group, young adult books can very quickly become angst-ridden "no one can understand me, my pain is so singular" types of stories, which really alienates me as a reader. Somehow many Australian authors seem to be successful at conveying the depressing bits of life, all the while with the undertones of the familial and friendship connections as an anchor that keep the narrative from getting to negative.
I like you but you mightn't feel the same way about me, and I wouldn't blame you. To save us both from any awkward moments I've figured out an easy way to do this. Nod if you're even slightly interested in getting to know me. Write a ten page explanation if you're not.
"Write a ten page explanation if you're not?" That is so classic, and I really hope I remember to use it on someone in the future. Because I loved Tiff so much, it was lovely to see everyone else through her eyes. She thought about people's motivations for their actions--what did Bull's girlfriend want to hang out with her for? Why was Reggie trying to avoid going to the doctor? I wish I could contemplate and remind myself that there are usually reasons for everyone's bad attitudes or, alternatively, for their acts of kindness. Quite surprisingly, this book did not make me cry, but I believe that Tiff is so lucky to have the family relationship she has (and likewise, her family is lucky to have her), and I think she makes a few more valuable connections with people during her summer. Tiff would be a very hard person to dislike, but I could totally see her just fading into the background. I'm so happy that Condon picked her out of the crowd and decided to tell her story.
The list of people who might love this book is pretty long. I'd recommend it for fans of the books I mentioned earlier, though I think the style most resembled a mixture of Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood. Bill Condon did a fabulous job of making me totally forget that he was a male writer with a female narrator, so I'd add anyone who is looking for a successful example of writing a main character, in first person, of the opposite sex. Also, this book is for anyone who is a fan of slice-of-life stories full of heart and a bit of humor.
Thanks to Arlene from WinterHaven Books for lending me her copy. You're a star.