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I’ve always seen my life like a sparkler on Fourth of July – barely noticeable, and better in theory than delivery.Gavenia, My Boring Life.
The book is historical fiction based in 1969 and recounts the summer Gavenia comes back from her disastrous first year at Barnard College to her hometown Boring – Oregon. Her elder brother Jack is back home from the Vietnam war minus a leg and suffering from PTSD. Her elder sister – Carolyn, is an activist and calls for change by protesting against the war. Gavenia believes her parents are inappropriate, loud and use humor to avoid uncomfortable discussions and situations.
The book is a fabulous read on so many levels. The author has tackled several social issues– some that were prevalent in the 60s and some that still persist. In a lot of ways, the book depicts how much farther we have come as a community. In the book, Gavenia attends Barnard College because Columbia does not accept women. In the book, Barnard is constantly referred to as a “consolation prize.” It is hard to believe that Columbia College first admitted women in the fall of 1983, after a decade of failed negotiations with Barnard College, the all-female institution affiliated with the university, to merge the two schools.
The book touches on various important topics such as discrimination and victimization of cross-dressers, racism, and the impact of war on soldiers and their families. Gavenia’s family is Mancunian, and the book wonderfully explores the emotions/thoughts first-generation immigrants grapple with. It beautifully depicts how immigrants hold onto their homeland in multiple ways and try to imbibe a similar upbringing in their children.
The book is funny, edgy, and eccentric. While it is not a page-turner (I don’t think it was written with that motive), it engages the reader on multiple levels. A subtle exploration of social issues, a beautiful depiction of emotions, and a strong storyline are the book’s strengths. It is a coming of age historical fiction done right.
I give the book 5/5 stars. It is an absolute recommendation for anyone who enjoys YA. Thanks to Netgalley and French Press Publishing for the ARC. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.