The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It by Lisa Shanahan

Earlier this week I was looking through my archives from earlier this year, and . . . I haven’t written about a book in a while. I don’t know why. I have still been reading quite a lot, but I guess I have had a lot on my mind, so I haven’t felt like thinking critically about books. I also haven’t enjoyed a lot of the ones I read, though it hasn’t been an active dislike. More like, “Okay.”

With that said, I did enjoy The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It by Lisa Shanahan, though I do not enjoy trying to remember the entire title. Thank goodness for cut and paste. hehe.

On the surface, this is the kind of story you hear all the time: a sister’s wedding, her crazy in-laws, trying out for the school play, the boy you like and the one who likes you. Gemma Stone’s life, though, is a little bit more dramatic than most when it comes to these ordinary details. Her sister’s wedding has a theme: animals that mate for life. Somehow or another, this theme ends up requiring Gemma to wear a swan costume to the wedding as she performs her duties as flower girl. Her sister’s in-laws aren’t the normal, “You aren’t good enough for my son,” kind of crazy. They’re crazy about war, with an actual military training course in their backyard. And Gemma tries out for the school play, trying to overcome her inability to speak in public . . . and maybe also to be near the boy she likes. Just a little bit. Instead of being paired with him, though, she’s paired with the boy who likes her, the one who has a rough home life . . . and also knows his Shakespeare cold.

At one point during the book, I thought that maybe it was all just a little bit too silly, the contrast between her sister’s crazy wedding and the challenges her new friend faces at home. But after finishing it, I think that the humor is a nice balance to the depth of Gemma’s journey throughout the book, as she learns to value honesty and sincerity, as she learns to speak for herself, and as she learns about love. I do think the transition from the goofiness to the more serious aspects of the story could have been a little bit smoother, but I think that teens will be drawn in by the humor and challenged by the other parts of the story.

I also really enjoyed the Shakespeare quotes and parallels. Those were probably my favorite parts.

This was a sweet, humorous look at high school life in Australia, with hints of the loneliness and insecurity that are what make high school so difficult for so many. Of course, the problems with loneliness and insecurity are that you aren’t thinking of anyone but yourself. I enjoyed traveling with Gemma as she started to learn what it might mean to stop thinking of herself and start caring more for others.

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