There will probably be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
I read a Young Adult book for the first time in a while a few days ago. (I also finished it. Then I started another one. Then I finished that too. I’ve had three naps today.)
It was also a recommendation, which is something I haven’t done in a while too. In fairness, the friend that recommended this book had been raving about it since I met her eight months ago, so it took me long enough.
If you hadn’t realised from the title, this book is Undone, by Cat Clarke. I actually really enjoyed it, even though it did scream “young adult”. Despite the fact I am also a young adult. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading more “adult” books lately. Who knows.
These days, when thinking of YA novels, I instantly think of clichés: a young protagonist full of angst who usually has a couple of love interests to choose from, more angst, a strange trait that makes them interesting, and did I mention angst????
Undone had plenty of angst. I was feeling the second hand angst; it was that powerful. Clarke doesn’t take any prisoners and doesn’t waste any time before delivering the fatal blow that impacts the rest of the book: the death of the love interest and best friend. I like how it’s a book of consequences, and not so much a book of action.
Despite the dark themes woven throughout the book, it still managed to provide me with the clichés I’ve grown to expect and sometimes exasperate myself over. The protagonist is often bitter, resenting the popular crowd thanks to the typical high school hierarchy. They’ll have a best friend who is their everything, although in this case Jem’s everything becomes her nothing. The popular people are seen as idiots, and the most popular is also the most attractive. There’s a comedic sidekick, a bully, and a girl with more makeup than sense. The only way the protagonist can win is through her sense of cunning and by infiltrating the group.
I’ve also noticed that YA novels are a lot more liberated these days. Sex is almost meaningless, and sexuality is explored to the point where it seems to be slipped on like a new shirt. I love how people are drawing more awareness to it, but I hate how it’s being thrown around to give a character a new dimension. It’s not a novelty, and it’s not a trait either.
What I loved most about Undone though was the fact that it surprised me. I’ve read many books, especially over the past 3 years, and although I can still be intrigued by a plot twist, I’ve become very good at predicting endings, especially pairings.
I thought I was until I read this book. Although it was a concept toyed with throughout the book, I was not expecting Jem to actually commit suicide somehow- it was a shock tactic that I wasn’t expecting. Maybe I was rooting for her, although her actions and her opinions gave me every reason not to. It may be because I’m slowly edging out of the target audience, but some of her justifications and her reasoning made me cringe, thinking of younger me. I was expecting the typical life turnaround where she’d see what life had to offer and move on, but I guess it goes to show that this is not always the case. It’s not something people can do easily. People may be gone, but they are most definitely not forgotten. Some people still struggle to find a reason to live.
What are your thoughts?