40 Things I Want To Tell You
by Alice Kuipers
I’m torn. Alice Kuipers’ 40 Things I Want To Tell You didn’t quite reach the level of expectation I had for it, sadly. Its a coming of age story about Amy (a.k.a. Bird), an organized, predictable, self-assured young lady with the grades, the drive, and an advice column on the side. She has everything planned – all the time. Except she’s suddenly become tired of being herself, which compels her to do something utterly unthinkable, utterly wild. Unluckily, her one momentary stray into the promiscuous results in not freedom, but quite the opposite.
So, the problem. While I didn’t find the actual story as engaging as I’d hoped it would be, it was more what it achieved in my mind, what it stood for, that I responded to. Amy’s story is not sweet, or comforting. At first, it seems like a typical life of a quirky, systematical girl. Funny, entertaining with parties, and homework sessions. But it quickly turns, spirals. What I love about the UK (this is based in England), and I’m finding this in their television programs as well, is that there is no glamour. For being one of the fashion capitals of the world, and the cultural envy of many, they don’t seem too preoccupied in selling themselves under guise of sweetly-coated lies. There’s no sense of trying to live up to the expectations of our fantasies, or satiate our hunger for fancy. They deal with the real, and sod everything else. Bitter, but true. They don’t concern themselves with fairy tales they know won’t come true for most of us. These are hopes that are attainable. They want us to dream in this world, not some far off land that only exists when we close our eyes, cover our ears, and blanket our hearts from reality.
I say this because 40 Things deal with serious issues. And in the end, some get a happy ending, and some don’t. Some may think it ended believably, some may think the author was being unnecessarily cruel. But life isn’t always sentimental, is it? The universe doesn’t always consider your happiness when its turning on its axis. Too many people on this planet to please. You must seek it yourself. You have to look for the good because it doesn’t come as easily as the tragic. Its like shifting gear, or adjusting your eyes…and only then does the light come into view.
This was a good book, I only mean that what’s between the lines is much more impressive. The point, rather than the structure. You get some genuinely good, likeable characters like boyfriend Griffin, and best friend Cleo. Pete, however, I found lacking. He was a complete mystery throughout, especially since he plays such a critical role; it was hard to soften up to him. There was no insight to his character, thus no growth. His decision in the end, what you might call his “attempt at redemption” was not at all an attempt at redemption. But again, some people might think its “real”. And it is, you know. It happens. But I’m simply arguing that if he were real and standing in front of me and got me to swallow all that bull, I would’ve socked him in the face. Finally Amy, or Bird. She was an acceptable protagonist. There were times I applauded her and times when I was frustrated with her decisions, but what can you do? You only get what you have on the page.
Forgive this long non-review. I say give it a try…it doesn’t take too much effort. I finished it in two days. And even though my expectations weren’t exactly met, I certainly still count this as a success. It isn’t always whether or not the story was your taste, sometimes its just about what you are left with once its finished. After all, that’s what really lasts: the feeling, not the words.
This review also appears on Goodreads.