Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It

The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It, by Lisa Shanahan. The GoodReads summary:
In my family, when anyone rides the wave of their emotions, we say they're chucking a birkett. When the emotion drives out all common sense, we say they're chucking a big one. The telltale signs are: flaming cheeks, shortness of breath, bulging eyes, and a prolonged illogical outburst.

Gemma Stone is convinced that it's always unseemly to chuck a birkett and that it's actually insane to chuck one in front of a complete stranger. But that was before she fell for a boy who barely knows she exists, before she auditioned for the school play, before she met the family of freaks her sister Debbie is marrying into, before the unpredictable Raven De Head took an interest in her, and before she realized that at the right time and for the right reason, a birkett could be a beautiful thing.
I have Lan to thank for recommending this book, because I doubt I ever would’ve found it otherwise. I don’t know what they have down in the water in Australia, but I swear Aussie authors never disappoint.

This is a younger YA—I think Gemma is around 14—so the story is perhaps a little simpler than many older YAs, but the simplicity didn’t detract from its depth. This actually is one of those rare YA contemps that successfully manages to balance funny with touching, light with serious. It had me smiling constantly and near tears twice. I just really appreciated how the author could keep things entertaining while still giving the book heft.

I thought the setup of the book was pretty refreshing. I feel like in some YA contemps, the story can get bogged down in the everyday details of the MC’s life. But in this book, we only really get to see Gemma and her life as relates to her sister’s wedding, her experiences trying out for the school play, and her relationship with Raven and the rest of the De Head family. Other aspects of her life don’t really come into play. To me, it felt more like a series of vignettes than a comprehensive chronological narrative. But that wasn’t a bad thing at all. I enjoyed the snapshots of Gemma’s life and felt like the structure kept the story focused on the important things.

I adored Gemma, but I thought the book had a well-rounded cast of secondary characters as well. The author doesn’t spend very much time describing them, but you get a solid sense of who they are and what they’re like from how they interact with each other. Pretty much any scene that had Gemma’s parents or the De Head brothers had me eager for more.

Overall, this was just one of those books that reminds me why I love contemporary YAs. It was light and funny but always weighed down by the right balance of more serious issues. It was well-written to boot, and who doesn’t love some virtually incomprehensible Aussie slang every once in a while?

Rating: 4 / 5


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this book! I found it on a recommendation from another blogger and lived it. I'm still amazed at the balance between comedy and tragedy and I just imagine raven to be a younger Jonah Giggs. And Gemmas dad was priceless.

  2. This sounds really cute! (and so true about Australian authors. Maybe only the best ones end up being around in the US?) I just finished another YA book that was on the younger side, and it's kind of fun to read that perspective every now and again.

  3. Seriously, I swear they're doing something shifty to the water down there in Australia. Because let's get real, Aussie books never disappoint. This seems like a fabulous younger YA read! It's so interesting that the author decided to do more of a snap-shot feel of the MC's life, I think that would really help to keep the story fresh and interesting. Plus, I always love when secondary characters are well developed. They all sound fantastic!

    Great review, I'm totally going to have to check this one out! And perhaps, while I'm at it, I'll figure out what those Aussies are doing down there... ;)

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life


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