book review · books · shanti

Literally just a book about YA books

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.

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Tropes include….

    • 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
    • divorce
    • 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!

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10 thoughts on “Literally just a book about YA books

  1. YA making getting into top-tier colleges look easy is one of the HUGEST turn offs for me. I was pretty interested in this one, but I ended up not marking it to read because I haven’t liked Lucy Keating’s other work. Glad that I didn’t pick this one up now. I think the trope reversal could be really cool, and I may end up picking this up just to flip through, but I’m not super tempted to read it. Great review!

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    1. I know! It’s usch a pet peeve of mind. I really liked the concept of Dreamology but I don’t think she quite pulled it off either. Trope reversal needs to be extreme and very self aware and Keating didn’t quite manage it. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. The love triangle is totally made fun of too, but the characters in it (except Anabelle and even her to some extent) are human cliches. I love mocking tropes too! Such fun haha.

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  2. Ohh interesting review, thank you for sharing ❤ I heard about this book a little while ago and it seemed like a fun story, too bad it didn't work so well for you. It's really so bad just as well that this character's experience as a newspaper editor didn't seem quite realistic enough for you, it would have been so much fun, I love when characters are doing these kind of things 🙂

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  3. This book was… interesting. I had a lot of problems with it, and it sounds like you had some of the same ones. I felt like there was so much potential for a really interesting exploration of writing and books in general, but it kind of fell flat. Oh well. Great review!!

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    1. It was definitely interesting, but it could have been a lot *more*, and if she had examined fewer tropes and made them deepr, or had more tropes and made it more cliched, it could have worked. Oh well!

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  4. More often than not, tropes end up irritating me by the end of a book. I can only read so many books about cliche, stereotypical characters and situations before craving something that’s actually unique and original.
    Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like tropes when they’re used intelligently (like Into the Woods), but I think this book was a little ambitious, and so fell short. But it *was* fun to read. Unfortunately, being self aware that it uses tropes is not the same as turning tropes on their heads.

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