This book feels like a blast from the past.
So anyone who has ever stumbled upon this blog can probably tell that I read a lot of LGBT YA fiction, and I have, for a very long time. Long enough to see how the genre has changed, and how it continues to change to reflect society at large. True Letters From a Fictional Life was only published last year, but it reads like something from 10 years ago. The reason for this is the amount of internalized and externalized homophobia present in the text which just reminds us all that we still have a long way to go.
Brief summary: James is living a double-life: while he lies to his friends and family, only the letters he writes (but never sends) reveal his truth. He’s sort-of-dating his childhood best friend, Theresa, but when he meets a boy at a dance, he’s finally forced to merge the truth in his letters with the reality he lives in.
So yeah. Not the most original plot, and I bet you can already guess what’s going to happen from my very vague summary. There are some interesting side-plots, and a simple plot does not make a bad novel, but it’s not exactly a book you have to pay a ton of attention to.
Now onto James. I found him to be rather unlikable, when he wasn’t being dumb. He makes a lot of stupid choices that don’t make much sense to me, and he lies…. a lot. About really dumb things. Some of his lies I get, since he is really struggling to accept his sexuality, but he also lies about things he doesn’t need to lie about for no good reason. Maybe this is to emphasis the difference between the “fictional” life James lives and the reality in his letters? I don’t know, but he’s dumb either way.
What I did like about James is his narrative voice: he is very masculine and sounds exactly like every boy I knew in high school. He brushes over the romance and his love life in favour for talking about beer and the woes of his life (which, for the most part, aren’t that bad). He hates having heart-to-heart conversations, and is quick to anger, or make a joke to change the subject. He is every jock you know. So while he isn’t likable (his love interest, no spoilers, is much more enjoyable in my opinion), he is very, very real, which is what counts in the end.
True Letters from a Fictional Life is a nice, easy read that feels almost too late; but at the same time, it’s a nice reminder that homophobia still exists in the world today, and (I know you’re tired of hearing it but…) things do get better, when you find those you can call you own.
2.75 letters out of 5.
(I know, that rating is weak, but giving it 3 stars seems too much and 2.5 seems like not enough. I liked it! But it was meh. Ya feel me?)