365 Days, KE Payne, Bold Strokes Books (2011)
OK, confession time: I almost permanently put this one down after a few pages. But I am so glad I didn’t.
Presented in a diary format from the mind of Clemmie, a young British emerging-lesbo, this book is written as an enthusiastic teen girl would probably authentically write. In other words, there are a lot of exclamation points, a decent amount of caps, a a healthy dosage of OMGs and FFSs. (I had to ask my girlfriend what FFS meant. [/old] There is also a lot of that. [/seriously].) Imagine reading the Twitter feed or the LiveJournal entries of a relatively well-spoken — but still — 16-year-old girl.
At first, my mind said “Oh man, I don’t know if I can do this.” I showed it to my girlfriend, and she shrugged and said, “I don’t know, it seems kind of fun.” So, I kept reading. Alas, dear AfterEllen.com readers: my girlfriend was right.
While the plot of 365 Days isn’t necessarily complex — it’s a year of a young lady falling in love with ladies — I actually think it’s one of the most real books I’ve ever read. Its descriptions of teen life and emotions are relatable and honest to an almost embarrassing degree. And by embarrassing, I mean it frequently made me giggle out loud to myself while muttering, “OMG, RIGHT?”
I found myself getting a little bored as Clemmie’s year progressed and she had secured a wonderful girlfriend, but the lead-up to the girlfriend, the dealing with crushes and funny emotions that come with them, was pure gold. The most common note I scribbled in the margins was “LOLZ.”
A few examples of these LOLZ/OMG-CLEMMIE-RIGHT? moments: her first crush is a girl she never speaks to but spends almost all of her time thinking about. (Who hasn’t been there?) She says “I miss her, even though I don’t even speak to her.” (Yep.) She discusses “feeling ever such a little bit cheated if I didn’t see her on any particular day.” (Yep, yep, yep.) When she starts to develop a closer relationship with her eventual-girlfriend, she looks forward to talking to her on MSN chat each night and feels disappointed if she doesn’t come online. (Yep.) And then there was this ultimate-truth-statement: “Why hasn’t Hannah texted me? Is there anything in this world more infuriating than a textless phone??!!”
Halfway into the book, I pretty much wanted Clemmie to be my best friend so we could have sleepovers and chat about all the girls we thought were fit. (Small shout-out to Skins fans: they frequently mention “going to ours.” Just sayin’.)
I also wanted to blow up this small section, where Clemmie is trying to look up definitions for “lesbian” and “gay” online to try to find some useful information, and post it on every elementary and middle and high school wall I can find:
Gay (n): homosexual.
Gay (n): happy.
I thought that was dead deep and would be a good pick-me-up for whenever I’m getting stressed about it all, so I’ve written the two words down in the back of you, dear diary, and I’ll sneak a peek at them and think about stuff whenever I’m ever feeling down.
Let’s be honest, YA literature is often a dark and dreary place. It’s nice to have an upbeat, exclamation-point-wielding narrator every now and then — especially when that narrator is slinging amazing British-teen-speak sodding everywhere.
Note, for this and all other books I may review which are published by small and/or indie publishers: They may be harder to find. I didn’t have trouble finding 365 Days, but I have it easy because I live by the glory that is Powell’s. Here’s my advice: if it’s not in your library, or your local bookstore, ask. Asking never hurts. And if you’re lucky enough to have good librarians and good booksellers, they will be more than glad to do what they can to make you a continued, satisfied customer.