about the ridiculous painfulness of love at age fifteen and various other things: Empress of the World by Sara Ryan. I've been hearing good things about this book for a while now, had it in the Amazon shopping cart but was preempted by Sara herself kindly sending me a copy. And it's excellent, very serious and sweet and rather touching. The voice of the (female) narrator Nic is very well done, plus the extra painfulness of the story being her girlfriend dumping her for a boy she doesn't even really like.
Passage I most identified with:
"You know what I think about religion?" I ask. Not waiting for an answer, I say, "I think it would be great if it was all clear-cut the way it is in Madeleine L'Engle books. Where you know who the bad guys are and it's all important and beautiful and it means that you can communicate telepathically with dolphins."
Isn't that great? That's a reference to a MUCH-loved childhood book of mine, A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle, which I see was originally published in May 1980, which sounds just about right--I think it actually may have been the first novel I ever bought in hardcover, I saw it in the window of a local bookstore and just HAD TO HAVE IT; almost everything I read came from the library, it was a frugal upbringing, so this stands out, and that I addictively read it immediately and many times.
Other favorite exchange:
"Why are you laughing?"
I wheeze a few times and manage eventually to get enough breath to say, "Us. We're acting like teenagers, you know." My voice is shaky. At a certain point, it really is hard to tell the difference between laughing and crying.
"We ARE teenagers," Battle reminds me.
"I know. But this is so dumb."
It was actually almost painful reading the novel, it so acutely reminded me of the summer I spent at age 15-turning-16 at a Telluride Association Summer Program at Williams in 1987. Where I did indeed meet the great love of my life--I chose what college to attend because it was the one he was going to--and then of course the week after I decided we broke up, and so it goes. And he was murdered in 1998, how melancholy to think of it all....
I guess if I have a criticism of the book it's that the kids do seem a bit young, my memory of being that age is that you're MADDENINGLY convinced (in retrospect, wrongly, but whatever) that you are completely a grown-up and that things are direly wrong and importantly bad and so forth and it is all far more melodramatic than Ryan's rather calm narrator is willing to indulge herself in. I don't know what it is about age fifteen--that's the age of the main character of my new novel, though it's definitely not young-adult fiction, it's written mainly for grownups--but something about it sticks with you, not in a good way. Ryan is gentle with her characters, though; it's reassuring & should persuade us all not to be too critical of our younger selves. After all, it is one of the great consolations in life to be no longer fifteen (foolish and generally extreme behavior continues till all ages, of course, but hopefully not in such high proportions & intensity).