Sunday, January 12, 2014

Melanie Bishop's YA novel of devastating secrets, hilarious friends, and growing up

Book: My So-Called Ruined Life
Author: friend-of-the-blogger Melanie Bishop
Published: 2013 (Torrey House)
Pages: 229

You guys, the first editor who ever published me has a YA novel out, and it's great!

Melanie Bishop, writing teacher and editor of Alligator Juniper at Prescott College, introduces us to Tate McCoy, a girl who is going through way more than any teenager ever should - her mom was murdered a year ago and her dad is being held as the primary suspect. She has to deal with relatives who mask their nosiness as sympathy, a whole town of people who treat her weirdly because of it (including an ex-boyfriend who dumped her when she needed him most), and making it through her last year of high school intact enough to escape to a good college.

She's actually fairly good at it. We meet Tate when she's had about a year to start re-emerging into as much of a normal teenage life as she can, and that highlights what I like most about her: she has a good solid grasp on who she is, or at least who she wants to be, and she's making so much progress towards it that when she makes an incriminating discovery as she's trying to face the past, her emotional setback is truly devastating.

It won't be giving away this twist to say that another thing I liked was how Tate's mom was not painted in any sort of sentimental light. Tate knew her mom wasn't a good person and saw clearly what made her that way and didn't want to go back to some fake happy childhood that never happened, but she still missed her and wanted her alive.

And the ending pulls no punches (trying really hard not to be spoiler-tastic here!) while still being happy for Tate.    

On the lighter side, Tate's best friend renamed herself Kale after going vegan, and Tate's goal of learning how to swim better gets in all kinds of the way of her goal to not date anyone for six months. It's all the cute swim guy's fault. These characters and the shenanigens they get into and help Tate with are really good at balancing the drama of the murder plot and also reminding us of the normal teenage life that will inevitably claim Tate. It's a good reminder than time will go on.

So are Tate's swimming lessons. She learns that you have to learn how to trust yourself enough to float before you can swim, and this is all kinds of revealing about how she has to trust herself to find a buoyancy in her real life before she fights it too hard and it swallows her whole.

All in all, a really enjoyable read that will definitely be staying on my bookshelf. Congratulations, fellow Melanie! And P.S. THANK YOU SO HARD for not writing fantasy romance. OH GOODNESS THERE'S SO MUCH, and this sort of thing is SO MUCH BETTER.

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