I discovered this book by virtue of researching Timothee Chalamet’s filmography–an actor I’ve been intrigued by since watching his performances in Little Women, Lady Bird, The King and Dune. I haven’t watched this movie yet, which is supposed to be one of his best, and decided to read the book first before watching it, just to get familiar with the story.
The writing is very literary, which I loved. I like when writing becomes almost poetry, and since lately I have read mostly commercial books, this came as a breath of fresh air. The romance, while turning out to be very epic towards the end, felt somewhat fragmented at the beginning. i didn’t know enough to get super absorbed into the romance as fast as the author intended the reader to be, I think. Even though ultimately I did become 100% absorbed by it, I struggled at the beginning because of how fast it felt… It was like being hit over the head with a sledge-hammer. Even though I understand this is what the protagonist felt and what we as a reader are supposed to feel too.
Also, during the beginning as well, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the protagonist. He came across as sensitive and moody, which is understandable given the fact that he’s a teenager. He also has some other really good qualities, though. He’s smart, he’s intuitive, he’s non-judgmental, he’s loyal. But these other qualities were sometimes overridden by his incessant inner chatter. I really did like the detailed psychological analysis of all the characters, the writing regarding the characters struck me as highly intellectual but also emotionally intuitive, tinged with the literary stroke which defines this book.
One of the more understated but nevertheless central themes of this book is who loves more. The intensity of the protagonist is never fully matched by his love interest. And it’s somewhat sad, because one can’t help but feel like a part of him was ruined by their encounter. The protagonist is the youngest between them, the less experienced, he less worldly, the most hormonal because of his teenage years.
They’re not even remotely on even ground, and it shows throughout the book time and time again, especially because the romantic interest ends up getting a life of his own and moving on, while the protagonist never fully heals from the wound of having loved him in the first place. There’s a part in the book that foreshadows this, when the love interest tells the protagonist that he doesn’t want to damage him, and he sort of does, but not in any way that the protagonist would ever regret. Because in the end, their encounter turns out to be the most life-defining moment for him. Like something that was meant to be. So it’s bittersweet this way, and almost heartbreaking. It’s a novel that I think will stay with me for some time.