I heard about Literally a few weeks ago. It’s a book about a girl called Annabelle who discovers that she’s living in a YA book. It’s less fun than you might think. It was a lot of fun, and very easy to read, but didn’t quite achieve the trope reversal it promised.
- falling in love with your brother’s best friend (about equivalent to your best friend’s brother)
- a love triangle
- many underdeveloped elements (which I’ll get to)
- White middle class girl with professional parents
- background best friends
- realising you love someone at a party
- surfer boys
- driving everywhere (there were a *few* cycling scenes which made a nice change
- “normal” “good” girl finds freedom in rulebreaking
- and more
There were more, too, but those were the ones that came immediately to mind. Now, I’m not totally against tropes, and some of these are ones I actually liked. A lot of the tropes were used in a very self aware way, but other’s weren’t. For example, “Lucy Keating” wrote the perfect boy into Annabelle’s (the protagonist’s) life, but made a love triangle, yet Annabelle fell for the “unobvious” person in the love triangle. The whole point of love triangles is that there is a conflict with who to choosed, because both have good points and represent some part of the protagonist’s personality. There was none of that here. I was waiting the whole time for Lucy Keating to prove that the love triangle thing was silly by having Annabelle fall in love with someone else–but no, that didn’t happen. (I don’t really think that’s a spoiler). Basically, it was hard to tell how many of the tropes were intentional;
I’m okay with that ambiguity I wanted to be okay with that ambiguity; the trope reversal could have been more clever than it was, but I do see what Keating was trying to do. Still, I was not on board with either side of the love triangle.
Then there were a lot of things that were underdeveloped. The biggest one was my pet peeve: Annabelle was editor of the school newspaper. As a high school senior at like the exact stage of life before graduation that she was AND A NEWSPAPER EDITOR, I wanted to see her being stressed over newspaper and have it consume her life (that’s what happens in real life) but that did not happen. I did relate to this quote though: “I love to take a group of words that just aren’t working and turn them into something readable and interesting.” Same thing with her getting into Columbia. YA makes Ivy Leagues look easy, but Annabelle didn’t talk about this much. Her parents getting divorced didn’t impact her much; she jsut decided not to talk about it. And a lot of the details of the world (how was the author able to actually talk to the characters? Why did “Lucy Keating” tell Annabelle about writing her life? WHAT IS REAL?) Again, I can totally see how this could have been self aware underdevelopment (for instance, the bland best friend, Ava, was absolutely self aware) but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more development (which would have enhance the whole metafiction thing). After all “What’s the harm in living outside the lines?” (or writing outside the lines, as the case may be).
Still, despite the tropes, I really like what Keating was trying to do here. She clearly reads a lot of YA, and was able to imagine how annoying it would be to be a main character. Annabelle was an interesting character, clearly coping with a lot of things (like most teenagers) and doing her best to understand. I related to her “just a teenager” thing, too; as a seventeen year old, this made a lot of sense.
“There are no promises here. But I’m seventeen years old […] And maybe tomorrow, it will all be different. But I don’t care.”
Both Keating and Annabelle got how crazy it all was, and I liked that the book made fun of how unrealistic YA while also examining why it’s appealing to so many people. There was lots of fun banter, and Annabelle was interesting, and the ending worked really well for me. Also, these are some quotes I liked.
“You’ll find your Happy Ending, and it’s not about with whom you end up. I am only just beginning to figure that out.”
“And just because something ends doesn’t mean it didn’t mean anything. Sometimes, you just have to take the risk.”
“Life is filled with plot twists. That’s what life is.”
So, Literally was sort of all over the place, but it was relatable to me, and it was self aware (even if it could have taken everything a step further). This and Dreamology have shown me that Lucy Keating writes really cool concepts that are fun to read, and so I’ll keep reading her books.
What’s a book that hasn’t quite worked for you? Do you enjoy tropes, or making fun of tropes? And have you read Literally? tell me in the comments!