Jeremy is returning to Saint Francis Prep after a bullying incident ruined the last few months of his previous school year. He spends the first few weeks back hiding in a teacher’s office, sketching, when he isn’t in class, until the teacher decides it is time for him to face the world.
Mira promises her parents she will try to fit in at Saint Francis, after depression and a suicide attempt chased her from her last school into the psych ward at the hospital. There she meets Sebby, a gay foster child with a self-destructive streak that only Mira seems to be able to keep in check. Together they try to fix themselves by creating a safe haven of rituals and road trips and friendship, one they determinedly drag Jeremy into, whether he is ready or not.
If you are going into this looking for a bisexual love triangle, go elsewhere. This book is about three teenagers dealing with sexual identity, homophobia, depression, suicide, and bullying, with just a touch of romance and a lot of friendship thrown in. The three find love and acceptance in their friendship, as they come to realize they are not alone in their journeys.
Fans of the Impossible Life is narrated from three points of view, each uniquely written in a different person. Mira and Sebby crash into Jeremy’s world, and change his perspective on a life that seems mired in loneliness. He narrates his chapters in the first person as the main character, with Mira a close supporting second. Her chapters are narrated in the third person, and while Sebby has only a few chapters of his own, each narrated in the second person, he influences every action taken throughout the story.
The plot contains a lot of different scenes not often found in a YA novel, including a gorgeous cross-dressing episode and a random night at drag queen karaoke. Added is an amazingly diverse cast of characters including a mixed race young woman battling depression, a teenage boy figuring out his sexuality, a drug addict, gay dads, a teacher who understands teen angst, a caring and strict foster mother, and a lesbian with a tough exterior and an obsession for her elusive ex-girlfriend, along with the regular cheerleaders and football players that are present in every high school.
Debut author Kate Scelsa deals with depression honestly, with no sugar coating. But she also illustrates the misconceptions and denial that can go with such an illness; Mira’s parents want her to be stronger, acting like her suicide attempt was a choice she made out of weakness. Scelsa takes the reader through the exhaustion and fear of facing the day that Mira just knows won’t get better. Seb’s addictions and Jeremy’s torment are given the same careful, authentic, detail.
I loved the ending. There are more loose ends than not, but it works, because it is real.
This is a fabulous contemporary novel about the joys and perils of growing up, friendship, and discovering yourself, without covering up the sad reality of mental illness and bullying. It is a YA novel that will take you back to those tough years where we all stumbled around, immersed in our lives and those of our friends, trying to figure it all out.
Fans of the Impossible Life was published September 8th 2015 by Balzer + Bray.