‘Annabelle,’ she says, ‘I am not writing about you. I am writing you.‘
I blink a few times. ‘I don’t understand,’ I say.
‘You are in my book,’ Lucy says, as though she’s explaining that today is Tuesday. ‘You’re a character. In fact, so is everyone.’ The hand holding her car keys makes a sweeping motion over the facade of my school.
(Literally by Lucy Keating. P30.)
Annabelle Burns is the perfect student. She lives in the perfect house, with the perfect family. Nothing has ever gone wrong, until Mum and Dad announce they are splitting up weeks before Annabelle finishes high-school. Suddenly Annabelle doesn’t know who she wants to become. For the first time in her life, she has no idea what the immediate future will hold.
Author Lucy Keating comes to speak to Annabelle’s creative writing class. Following her own split, she has decided to break from her traditional tragedies and write a romance with a happy ending. She’s writing about a girl whose parents have just split, a girl who doesn’t know what the future holds ….
She’s writing about Annabelle. In comes new boy Will, the most perfect boy Annabelle has ever seen. Lucy Keating is adamant that Annabelle and Will will overcome their love triangle and live happily ever after, but is that what Annabelle wants?
A light-hearted read which pokes fun at novel structure and the tropes of YA fiction. A must-read for any writer or bookworm.Review:
I read Literally in two sittings, and couldn’t put it down. Literally is:
- A super-addictive novel. It follows the tropes of contemporary YA. We know the moment Will walks into the classroom that Annabelle will fall head-over-heels in love
- A witty commentary on the writing process, the conventions of YA fiction and the reasons we write. When Will walks into the classroom, it is observed that he has entered in a stereotypical new-boy role.
By the time you finish this I promise you will have a pen and notebook in your hands, ready to put what you’ve learned into practice. Please don’t think this makes Literally a textbook, or a didactic novel. The information comes through satire of Annabelle’s story. For example, she’s out with Will when she realises every shop and restaurant she has ever known is called TK or TK’s. TK is a term used by writers and editors to signify that information will be added at a later date. As someone who writes, I loved this. It is like a little message from the author – you don’t have to know everything to get started.
I loved the focus on teenage stress, and the pressure young people feel to know who they want to be. Why do we expect people to know at 17 or 18 how they want to live in the future? Most of us spend the rest of our lives figuring it out. It can take years before we know who we really want to be, and how we might get there. The search for a clear-cut ‘self’ or ‘future’ can be misguided. I liked how the theme extended to Annabelle’s parents. Having raised a family, they are ready to reassess their lives. This was very true to life, where young people undergoing big changes find their parents are ready to do the same.
It was also nice to see a high-achieving protagonist, who is interested in writing, journalism and literary theory. YA characters often like books, but I can’t think of many characters who go beyond reading for pleasure into active study or perusal of a literary discipline. I hope Literally encourages young people to write, and to find a out which forms of writing they like best.
Highly recommended. I can’t wait to share this with my writing and blogging friends.
Huge thanks to Harper360 for sending a copy in exchange for honest review.