What's worse than getting dumped? Not even knowing if you've been dumped. Joy got no goodbye, and certainly no explanation when Zan - the love of her life and the only good thing about stifling, backward Haven, Utah - unceremoniously and unexpectedly left for college a year early. Joy needs closure almost as much as she needs Zan, so she heads for California, and Zan, riding shotgun beside Zan's former-best-friend Noah.
Original and insightful, quirky and crushing, Joy's story is told in surprising and artfully shifting flashbacks between her life then and now. Exquisite craft and wry, relatable humor signal the arrival of Emily Wing Smith as a breakout talent.
I love Emily Wing Smith. Love everything about her. I'm using the word LOVE here. But before I met Emily, before I knew what a kind, witty, thoughtful and street smart person she is, I loved her writing. I read her first book, THE WAY HE LIVED, in one emotional car ride. It was an ambitious debut, with six voices telling the story of a boy who died under mysterious circumstance. I don't think I've read another book that so effectively and effortlessly wove multiple perspectives together.
But this spotlight is on Emily's latest book, BACK WHEN YOU WERE EASIER TO LOVE, with it's fun quirky cover. And I confess, I was so nervous to read this book, nervous that Emily would have lost of some her umph in a fluffy romance (says the girl who, uh, writes fluff). But as adorable as this cover is, don't let it deceive you. This book is multi-layered, emotional, funny, quirky and heartfelt. And Barry Manilow--let us not forget Barry. As Micol mentioned yesterday, I connected with this girl seeking closure from a boyfriend who one day just left town. I had one short, intense relationship that ended abruptly, and all though I moved on, I wondered WHY for a long time. And like Micol mentioned, sometimes that WHY isn't what we thought it would be.
This book is set in Haven, UT. During my short time as a teacher, I lived in a Utah town like the one Emily creates, a town where the traditions of the prominent religion (in this case Mormonism) bled into the cultural landscape. But I also noticed this same effect in Birmingham, AL, and the same can be said for many communities across America. That religious and cultural homogeny isn't BAD, but it is THERE, and Emily also nailed the struggle for an outsider, whether through geography or personality, to fit into these kind of towns.
It's a great sophomore novel, and I look forward to following Emily's bright career, which may take a bake seat to Emily's new cover band, the Barely Manilows. I'm gunning to be the new flutist. Fingers crossed.