Thursday 28 May 2015

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Review: This Is Not a Love Story by Keren David

This Is Not a Love Story by Keren DavidThis Is Not a Love Story by Keren David (review copy) - Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that's impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father's unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn't take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect?

In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time.

But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone's heart survive?
From Goodreads.

Review edited on 4th October 2016 due to Malinda Lo's article, Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews. My original review was offensive, due to my privilege leading me to find Jewish terminology jarring, and I apologise. You can read my acknowledgement of my mistake and my apology here. For transparency, you can find a screen cap of original wording here

My first read the for the LGBT Readathon, This Is Not a Love Story by Keren David, an LGBTQ YA novel with a Jewish bisexual male, was a really enjoyable read, but sadly I didn't love it.

When her mum gets a new job in Amsterdam, Kitty is excited to start over and reinvent herself. No-one need know about her regular heart check-ups, she can be a new, confident Kitty, find herself a boyfriend, and share her experience of life in this beautiful city on Instagram. From now on, life is going to be great!

Theo has been sent to Amsterdam by his parents to get away from the scandal he's at the center of. They don't like the gossip in their Jewish community about him and the family, and with his mum's mysterious, undiagnosed illness, she just doesn't need the stress and the worry. They've sent him to live with his cousins, and finish his schooling there. He's not happy about the move, but he doesn't have a choice.

When Kitty and Theo meet, they find they have a lot in common - both Jewish, both from North London - and they hit it off, and become good friends, with the potential for more. But there's also Ethan; obnoxious, but really good looking, and seemingly interested. But with everyone keeping secrets, will things work out with either of them?

Narrated by both Kitty and Theo, the story opens several months into living in Amsterdam. There was a party the night before, and now Kitty is missing. She and Theo had an argument, they split up, and now she's nowhere to be found, with her bag of clean clothes and phone left behind. Her mum is out of town, and Theo is starting to panic; anything could have happened to her. The story then jumps right back to when they're in London, before moving to Amsterdam, and show the events leading up to Kitty's disappearance. I was really intrigued to see what would happen, what led to the argument, why and how Kitty disappeared. I was gripped the whole way through, and there were some things I didn't see coming.

However, I did not like either Kitty or Theo - unless the other was narrating. Theo seemed quite nice when Kitty was narrating, and Kitty pretty cool when Theo was. But getting into their heads, oh my god, they drove me mad! Kitty is very naive. She's really into romance novels, and is determined for her life to work out like one. She's deluded and sees what she wants to see, while being overdramatic. Theo is so immature, and was sometimes like a little kid throwing a tantrum. "When I turn eighteen, I can do what I want and no-one can stop me!" You can just imagine the unsaid "So there!", and see him stamp his foot, fold his arms, while pouting and glaring. They both just drove me to distraction! And that partly hindered my enjoyment of the story, because I just wanted to shake them so much, or bag my head against the wall. I really loved Ethan though! He was so blunt, but I really got his sense of humour, and he really made me smile! I kind of wished he had his own narration too, but I probably wouldn't have liked being in his head either.

I love the title of this story, considering everything that goes on. Kitty knows Theo has a secret, but she completely believes that she will be the answer to all his problems, they will fall completely in love, and everything will be just wondering. Because it was fate, you know? Them both being Jewish and from North London, and then attending the same college - it was obviously meant to be! Just like in the romance stories she reads! Um, no, Kitty! Obviously this is a book, but it's one that looks at how fiction is fiction, and real life just isn't like that, real life is messy and complicated. I love the irony of all three attending a creative writing workshop that covers writing romance stories, how there need to obstacles keeping the couple apart or causing problems before true love and happy endings happen, even in the stories, and yet Kitty is still dreaming about how beautiful her life will be.

Ethan is bisexual, and it's dealt with really well. No-one is bothered really, all accepting. Kitty is surprised at first, when he uses her to upset an ex by kissing her for him to see, to then discover that ex is a guy and not a girl, but once she gets over her initial shock, there's no issue with his sexuality - just the way he treated her. There's more I want to talk about on this topic, but can't without spoiling the story, so don't read the next part if you've not yet read the book.

Another great aspect of this book was how the characters are Jewish. Judaism isn't something I know much about, so it was really interesting to learn about the different holidays and celebrations, and about the things Jewish people can and can't do, like eating kosher food. I loved the discussions between Kitty and Theo about their faith, especially as Theo's family was a little more religious than Kitty and her mum, who are more relaxed. Theo doesn't dislike his religion, but he finds aspects of it a real pain, and it was really interesting to learn about it, yet see him loath to go to the synagogue or take part in holidays.

Even with all my minor issues with This Is Not a Love Story, I still really enjoyed it! I loved how it ended, it was pretty much perfect for the story that was told.

Thank you to Atom for the review copy.

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Published: 7th May 2015
Publisher: Atom
Keren David's Website


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