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“I am sixteen years old. I am a human being.”
Actually Sarah is several human beings. At once. And only one of them is sixteen. Her parents insist she’s a gifted artist with a bright future, but now she can’t draw a thing, not even her own hand. Meanwhile, there’s a ten-year-old Sarah with a filthy mouth, a bad sunburn, and a clear memory of the family vacation in Mexico that ruined everything. She’s a ray of sunshine compared to twenty-three-year-old Sarah, who has snazzy highlights and a bad attitude. And then there’s forty-year-old Sarah (makes good queso dip, doesn’t wear a bra, really wants sixteen-year-old Sarah to tell the truth about her art teacher). They’re all wandering Philadelphia—along with a homeless artist allegedly named Earl—and they’re all worried about Sarah’s future.
But Sarah’s future isn’t the problem. The present is where she might be having an existential crisis. Or maybe all those other Sarahs are trying to wake her up before she’s lost forever in the tornado of violence and denial that is her parents’ marriage.
“I am a human being. I am sixteen years old. That should be enough.”
►Nothing’s really original so let’s not start, alright?
“In eight days of riding around, that’s what I’ve discovered. It’s raining bullshit. Probably all the time.”
I’m gonna be unoriginal and repeat what my fri en ds already said : don’t be fooled and think that it’s about an angsty teenage girl. It’s really not. Or maybe it is, partially, but A.S. King challenges the way we see angsty teenage girls. After all, aren’t we all a little unfair when judging them? What’s our goal when we deny their right to be upset about things?
“But now it’s been so long that if I bring it up, I’ll look like a girl who can’t let go of things. Teenage girls always have to let go of things. If we bring up anything, people say we’re bitches who can’t just drop it.”
Think about this for one second.
Now : what does that say about us as a society? Because I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that it stops at some point in our life. I can’t even express how
that makes me feel.
…people say we’re bitches
who can’t just drop it…
This sentence, here? It brings our world into a cruel and unforgiving light, making me want to throw up a little. We’re so quick to judge people and assume that their problems aren’t that bad. We’re so quick to dismiss their struggles and tell them they’re overreacting. Especially when they’re women.
But what’s less original than identifying with the main character? Granted, it’s not something that makes me feel comfortable.
Sarah, though. Why, thank you, that hit me pretty hard.
In my bubble.
I forget stuff.
I’m not talking about, oh, crap, that letter! stuff.
I’m more talking about, wow, how could I even forget THIS happened?? stuff.
I have a very good memory, thank you very much.
It’s just – selective, unreliable, when I’m concerned : nearly perfect for the most random things, including school stuff, but comes a big emotion and pfiouuuu here it goes.
It does not mean that I will never remember again, oh, no! It would be one million times easier. My limbo is usually the most active around, I don’t know, midnight? When I can’t do anything about it? When my mind is going round and round in circles? And then I’ll forget.
If Sarah moved me, Helen destroyed me. The family’s relationships were so complex and heartbreaking. Again, A.S. King brought such realistic characters to life, how could they not touch me in my very core?
Next would be this : it looks the same as so many books but really it’s different. Trust me. It may be the touch of magical realism she always incorporates in her stories. It may be her writing, beautiful but so very honest. Or she may be that good, but even if the issues she deals with never strike as being original, if I may say, her books are impossible to compare to anything I read before.
Finally, what’s less original than complaining about issues let open in the end? So let’s do this.
Except… Except I won’t, because when your stories ring so true, there’s no such thing as an unrealistic open ending. It’s only life. Period.
► I would say that I was pleasantly surprised, except it would be a lie : A.S. King is so constantly good at dealing with somewhat common issues. Her stories are just my kind of weird and manage to hit me all the same. Of course I recommend.