*Disclaimer – In the following post, I am going to use generalizations such as “we,” “us,” and “our” – please know that I DO realize, not EVERYBODY feels the same things and the same way. I do, however, have a feeling, that there are more of us that can relate than those who can’t. If you are one of the lucky people who cannot imagine what it feels like to share in any of the experiences below, count your blessings, baby – because you are one lucky girl! xo
Do you remember the first time you looked in the mirror and didn’t like the image staring back at you? What about the first time someone said something hurtful or unkind to you? Probably not. For a lot of us, that experience happened when we were far too young to even realize what was going on, so we put those feeling in our proverbial back pocket and let them stay there. We continue to go through life – experiencing ups and downs. For some of us, there may be more downs than ups, for others, we may just spend more time focusing on the downs then enjoying the ups and after a while, our pockets begin to droop and those feelings begin to find their way out, impacting each of us in various ways. For some of us, we use food (either in excess or in sparsity), for others – drugs/alcohol, for some, we become aggressive, while others completely introvert, some use our bodies for the attentions we felt we lacked, while others try to become invisible to the world around us. We look around and see our friends or our “not” friends, and they seem to be so happy and alive and content and we think to ourselves, why can’t I feel like they do?
The older we get, if we are lucky, smart, and touched (no not in a physical way) by the right people, we can learn to believe in ourselves, start listening to the positive more than the negative, and start to love who it is that we have become. We can also learn that if we don’t like where we are, we possess the strength to change and move on
In the last twelve months or so, I have read so many books where the heroine was disliked by readers for being too “weak” or too “spineless” or too “needy” and, while sometimes I do agree with the general consensus, it’s often when the author has created that character to be flawed just for the sake of being a DID (damsel in distress). It’s a rare thing for an author to craft a character that is perfectly damaged, genuinely flawed, and still completely lovable.
But that is EXACTLY what Heather Gunter did in her debut novel, “Love Notes.” In this original, heart-breaking, yet beautiful story, we meet our heroine, Charlie. One of the things I loved so much about Ms. Gunter’s story telling was for the first part of the book we only saw Charlie through her own eyes. We saw an over weight, drab high school senior who has spent her life moving from school to school across the country as her father relocated each year for his job. We felt her anxiety about starting a new school, being the new girl, and making new friends. And of course we learned that her greatest obstacle in life was simply surviving. Her father’s verbal abuse was slowly choking the life out of her – between his incessant “fat” jokes and his constant “reminders” of her stupidity, Charlie was clinging self-preservation by the ear-buds of her ipod. And then she started her senior year in her new school.
Now this is where Ms. Gunter really blew me away, while telling the story from 2 pov’s she still managed to keep me thinking of Charlie from Charlie’s perspective- bland, drab, sloppy and then….BAM! I started to see her from the eyes of those around her. I felt like I was watching the Wizard of Oz. Do you remember how at the beginning everything is in black and white and then Dorothy opens the door of her cottage and the whole world shines in beautiful colors? That’s what happened when I started to look at Charlie from the perspective of our hero, Maverick and Charlie’s best friend, Tori. Charlie went from a two dimensional character to 3-D in Hi-def. Is it because she grew six inches, lost thirty pounds and became a swimsuit model? No! It’s because I was reading the book through Charlie’s eyes and Charlie hated herself. When we hate ourselves we see what we want to see…not always what is actually present.
So let me tell you about Maverick. He’s a little too young to be my book boyfriend, BUT I am totally going to set him up with my baby-sitter!! Because every girl in the world should have a guy like him. He truly is dreamy and swoony all wrapped into one…he’s droony! Heehee! He sees Charlie for who she is and even though he is popular and beautiful, his perfection runs bone deep. Ms. Gunter fills this book with wonderful, amazing and entertaining characters. Not only that, but she also kept away from all the pitfalls of the typical YA books. I would give you more information, but then I would be giving spoilers…(you know i don’t do that!).
I really loved this book. I loved the rawness of the story as well as the genuineness of each of the characters. I love that Ms. Gunter didn’t paint everything “pretty” in the end just so that the reader would feel good. I love that I really want to see what happens to Tori, and I think I may have the chance because I heard that there is a second book in the works… (Is that true, Ms. Gunter?) This is the type of story you should read; It’s the type of story your teen-aged daughters should read, because when you think about it, are any of us really THAT secure in ourselves that we couldn’t use a little refresher on how important self-love really is?
Please let me know what you think of this story.