Reading Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills made me immensely happy. So many YA books, especially those set in high school, are stuck in the doldrums. Foolish Hearts lends vulnerability and nuances to the characters that could have been manipulated in a negative and depressing manner. Instead, each characters concerns and tribulations became platforms for growth. All teenagers are being pushed through the eye of the self-discovery storm. For most of us, we reflect back later on high school and (using the empathy and sympathy we didn’t possess at the time) see people through another lens. Foolish Hearts allows the characters to do this in the moment and I loved them for it.
Foolish Hearts is told from the perspective of Claudia. She is a senior in a private all-girls school and her only friend is her childhood bestie Zoe who attends the local public school. Since she has a best friend locked in, Claudia has spent the last three years of high school unengaged from her peers. But, when she accidentally eavesdrops on the epic breakup of Paige and Iris, the penultimate couple at her school, she finds herself in hot water with the difficult Iris. After Claudia and Iris are thrown together for a class production Claudia is forced to engage with people and issues and expands her horizons.
While there is a boy in the story and a romantic sub-plot, I wouldn’t consider this book a romance story. Instead, it is a reflection on life. I love this book because the author does an excellent job of reminding the readers that everyone’s life is different under the surface they project or the image you percieve. Everyone has something that you don’t but that means you have something others are lacking. I find this is a poignant reminder for everyone but most pressingly important for children and teens. I appreciated that this book made this point in a positive way and through the shy but insightful Claudia.
Tell me, please!
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?
The first book I read by Becky Albertalli was The Upside of Unrequited Love. It was included in an OwlCrate and I didn’t want to read it. I was coming out of a YA funk so I put it on my bookshelf and left it there for about six months. One night insomnia struck and I cracked it open and consumed it whole. I love that book and, for me, this is the guidepost by which all Albertalli’s shall be measured. Sadly, I lent it to a friend who appears to be keeping it.
When Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda was published I purchased it and shelved it because I was keeping it for a special time. When I read that she had new books I knew it was safe to use up my lone Albertalli and so Simon went with me to Canada. And, happily, Albertalli has done it for me again.
For most of us, the teenage years are filled with turmoil because we are swimming in hormone-infused water (made from concentrate). It is the deep end of drama. There are venti sized vendettas and crushes as wide as the Grand Canyon. For Simon, his family is extra and his friends are steady so his life is as stable as it can be for a high schooler. Except he has a crush on a boy that he has been e-mailing. And now there is blackmail afoot.
If this book had been published five to ten years ago it would be the disclosure of Simon’s crush that would push the narrative of this book. But, and thank the good Lord for this, it is 2018 and things are finally different. So, while Simon is not sure how to disclose his sexual identity it is Blue, the pen name for the boy he has been writing, that is the impetus for change that Simon resists.
I do not typically enjoy books set in high school. Those were not my favorite years and they remain that way for so many young people. In many books high school characters seem self centered because this is the age where you are beginning to really form your own identity. But a great author takes you through the moment of self-discovery that is so poignant in high school with characters who are sandwiched between self discovery and social pressure. Watching Simon navigate those decisions reminded me that no one really knows what they are doing, especially in high school but watching people develop, change and challenge themselves is a privilege.
Tell me, please!
Does the film hold up to the book?
Are there settings you avoid because they remind you of painful moments in life?