I read this book as a teenager, and I remember that I liked it, but recently when it came time to read it for book club, I realized I only had vague memories of what happens in it or what made me like it. Although I did remember two things quite clearly: I loved Cassandra, and I hated Simon. So with that in mind, I started off on my reread—though honestly, most of the time it was like I was reading it for the first time.
I fell in love with Cassandra at exactly the same place I did when I first read it: at the top of the second page. Cassandra is describing herself and she says, “I am seventeen, look younger, feel older.” That statement just so perfectly encapsulated how I felt my entire teenage life—that disparity between how others saw me and how I saw myself. That quote spoke to me then, and it still speaks to me now. Cassandra is quite insightful and observant and witty, and she made me grin constantly and even laugh out loud a few times. Which is not to say that Cassandra is perfect. I got so frustrated with her for the way she acts with Stephen, like his adoration of her is her rightful due and that she doesn’t have to think about how her actions affect him. I also got a bit tired of her constant whining and moping during the last quarter of the book. But I can forgive her all that because of how well she captures so much of what I felt growing up and because of how easy it is for me to relate to her.
I was kinda hoping that I was misremembering my disdain for Simon, and that this time around he would win me over. But he didn’t. I think the majority of why I didn’t like him when I first read the book was his creepy beard, but this time I thought that while he’s perfectly nice, he comes across as a bit too weak and boring for my taste. And I don’t like how he (spoiler) falls for Rose for her beauty and for who he thinks she is, rather than for who she really is. And I really can’t forgive him for kissing Cassandra when he’s engaged to Rose and then acting like it’s no big deal (end spoiler).
The ending was much better than I remembered it being the first time around. (Spoiler) I thought that the book ended with Simon and Cassandra getting together, but it doesn’t—it leaves it open. For most people that’s probably frustrating, but since I don’t like Simon, I was quite happy with it. Yes, the book ends with Cassandra still in love with him and with the possibility of them being together in the future, but the openness of the ending leaves room for me to believe that Cassandra will outgrow him eventually and find someone better—and if that someone just happens to be an older and wiser future Stephen, I wouldn’t mind a bit (end spoiler).
Overall, I was glad that when I finished the book this time, I liked it just as much as I did the first time I read it. Even a little more maybe, because I felt like I understood things that I missed before. It never ceases to amaze me how a book written in 1948 can speak to me so well 65 years later.
Rating: 4 / 5