Publisher: Electric Monkey.
Paperback, 436 pages.
Release date: January 7th 2013.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
Kylie Flores – class brain and movie addict – has been planning her big graduation day speech for three months. A scholarship student she would never dream of mixing with the likes of Max Langston – rich undeniably handsome and athletic but totally dead from the neck up. So it’s a total mystery when Kylie wakes up in Mexico with the hangover from hell in a bed she doesn’t recognise next to Max – and they are both wearing wedding bands…
Rewind 48 hours to find out just how and why they got there!
What would you do if you woke up in Mexico with your best friend, your arch-enemy, and the most popular guy in school, who you may just have married overnight? Days from graduation, high school senior and valedictorian Kylie Flores is about to find out.
There’s something about the synopsis of From What I Remember that made me wonder if would make a great movie – maybe because it references so many movies itself, but we’ll get to that later – and, once I’d finished reading, I was sure of it. Intense, visual and character-led, it’s about chaos and perfection, escaping the past and embracing the future. There’s a fantastic focus on humour and, if you can suspend your disbelief, it’s a rip-roaring contemporary adventure you’re bound to enjoy.
The plot of From What I Remember just oozes cool. It moves fast, packed with all kinds of crazy antics. All Kylie wants is to get away from her oppressive small-town life – she wants to be a screenwriter and attend NYU – but she never expected her escape to involve high-speed chases, trucks and a detour to Ensenada, Mexico. You’re thrown into the story as Kylie wakes up, realizes where she is but struggles to remember what happened the night before. In her words: ‘Swimming in the ocean with Max. Drinking (lots of drinking) on the dock. And kissing (lots of kissing). Then… the screen goes black.’
Told from alternating perspectives, the book touches on issues like strained family relations and perfectionism bordering on OCD, tying different threads together across a wide variety of backgrounds and attitudes. I love ensemble narration, but there’s always a chance that some of the characters will start to blend together if their personalities aren’t unique enough. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen here and the changing viewpoints bring much needed depth to the tale. I really hated Lily but I absolutely loved Max. He’s a very flawed guy and he can be irritating at times, but he has a good heart and grows on you and begins to admit that he’s not where he wants to be in life, even though he’s one of the most sought-after, popular guys in his school. Kylie’s best friend Will is her anchor, but he’s treated as the ‘token’ gay character of the text and I believe he deserved more than that. And, to add insult to injury, the authors again treat Kylie’s brother Jake, who has Asperger’s, as a token character. He’s treated as more of a comic-tragic sideshow than an actual person, relying on stereotypes rather than actual understanding of the way he sees the world.
The other issue I had with the book was the writing style. You can’t tell it’s a two-author book from the writing, but that’s where its advantages end. There’s no subtlety or flow. The dialogue is particularly unrealistic and clunky. The characters have unique personalities but the same telling-not-showing narrative voice. It’s as if the authors were so caught up in making sure the reader was told every single detail of the story directly and thoroughly that they forgot readers are usually capable of picking up intricacies for themselves.
However, an entire half-star can be awarded for this book’s homages to movies alone. It makes particular use of such classic tropes as ‘OMG did I get so drunk last night that I married a guy I barely know?’(We’re not supposed to be entertained by tropes in books, but it’s written in such a fun way here, it’s difficult to resist). Each chapter starts with a movie quote and, best of all, some of the characters even quote directly to each other. I think the ending may be a little too neat for my taste – every character develops as much as they should, there’s a lot of emphasis on popularity, and you can just see the final chapters being all wrapped up in a little bow – but there are some great moments earlier in the book which made reading it worthwhile.
In short. Funny and full of adventure, From What I Remember is a YA road-trip escapade to treasure this summer. It’s not the most subtle of novels and some of the character issues are badly handled, but it’s a light, enjoyable beach read guaranteed to make you laugh.