Summary: I remember the first time that we lay together and I felt the crackle of her dark hair between my fingers, and closed my eyes and breathed her in, so that she became my entire world. Anna is afraid she must be unlovable – until she meets Flynn. Together, the girls swim, eat banana cake, laugh and love. Some days Flynn is unreachable; other days she’s at Anna’s window – but when Anna discovers her secret, she wonders if she knows Flynn at all. A beautifully crafted novel that explores the tension between the things that pull people together and the things that push them apart.
The book is about 19-year-old Anna who lives in small town in Australia and works in a bookshop. She lives far from her family and has no friends but she finds all she needs in books. Especially the dark ones written by dead Russian writers. Then one day she meets Flynn (well, she really is Rose but everyone calls her Flynn) and Anna realises that she needs more in her life. That she needs Flynn in her life.
They both fall for each other quickly and start getting to know one another even if they are cautious to share some parts of their past.
The book perfectly encapsulates the characteristics of first love. It’s like being short-sighted all your life and suddenly putting on glasses: you finally realise what you’ve been missing out your whole life and what you now can’t live without. Anna thought her entire life that she was not lovable and that no one would ever love her. Just the day before, Anna was roughly satisfied with her life (as much as a lonely and depressed 19 year old could be, that is) and the day after she can’t stop thinking and obsessing about Flynn. Because love may be a beautiful thing but it does have some obsessive, absolute and all-encompassing aspects to it. And as Anna and Flynn get to know each other, the reader gets to know more about them and reevaluate what he or she has been thinking all along since the beginning.
A part of the book tells the teenage years of Anna and how she had to go through the divorce of her parents and how her little sister has learning disabilities. Even though Anna loves her sister Molly, she sometimes resents the attention her sister gets instead of her. Anna also feels “like a freak” for being gay and she closes herself to the people around her.
One aspect of the story is Anna’s depression, and I thought that young adult novels on the subject are far too few. It is very respectfully and realistically described and I thought it added a very interesting layer to Anna’s personality.
Creativity is an important part of the book as well: Flynn is a musician and has a very lively personality (she names her belongings and talks to her guitar). It also shows how a creative activity can bring out the deeply hidden emotions you feel you can’t talk about. It definitely reminded me of Melinda in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson who progressively finds her voice in art class. Some traumas are hard to get out there and I loved how Flynn tried to find a way to express herself.
The story is very much centred around the two main characters and their stories. The book is told from Anna’s point of view and her obsession with Flynn was hard to follow at times, but the book’s writing kept me going. You might not be able to like the characters or be fascinated by this love story, but the writing is so beautiful it holds you until the very last page. It really has been a pleasure to read and I highly recommend it if you are reading books leaning on the more literary side of the force.
This is a very sweet love story, but most of all the coming of age story of a girl who needs to get away to find herself. The passages on Anna’s depression and on Flynn’s creativity as a means to escape and deal with reality as well as the beautiful writing really made this book special for me.
First published on Portrait of a Woman.