Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: The Year We Became Invincible by Mae Coyiuto

The Year We Became Invincible
by Mae Coyiuto

Synopsis:
Dear Future Reader,

If you’re reading this book, it’s either:

1. You’re my future partner

2. I’m famous and my writings have been immortalized

3. You’ve violated my privacy and these are not meant for you

Let’s hope it’s not the last one. Before this year, I had my life all planned out. This book contains the story of the year that changed my life (well, my life so far). It’s the year I learned how to be invincible. That wasn’t really specific, but I guess you have to read on to see what I’m talking about.

Love,

Camille

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Anvil Publishing
Publication date:  August 28th 2015
Source/Format: borrowed from my sister/paperback
Pre-order links: Amazon | Kobo | National Book Store

My Thoughts:

Camille Li is a senior high school who one day decides to write letters to her future partner. She says she does so because she wants her future partner to really know her. From poring over into her letters, we sneaky readers get to know that Camille is a straight as an arrow student who had this whole future fantasy laid out before her. She is going to be a doctor like her dad at the age of twenty-seven, will marry a respectable guy and will have three children of her own. But more often than not, things don’t work as planned. She unexpectedly gained four friends who took her to adventures, made her shift her views about the future and let her feel “invincible” at the present.

"Fear is okay if you don't let it take over. When I did things despite that fear, that's when all these limits didn't matter. For the first time, I actually believe that I can do anything. I'm different when I'm with you guys. I'm...I'm invincible."

I was initially on the fence upon finishing this one. Something in me wants to like it because the main character is a fair representation of Asians like me but there are other particular parts that I didn’t like. And when confused with my feelings with a book, one of the things that I do, albeit ill-advised because they might influence my opinion, is to peek in to Goodreads and see what other readers say about it.

First thing that I noticed among the reviews is that most of them compare “The Year We Became Invincible” to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. Well, aside from both titles being a mouthful, I think the readers can vibe the chase of feeling invincible in this one with that moment of infinity with the other. Also, the main character, Charlie, in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” wrote letters to an imaginary friend just as how Camille here writes to an imaginary future partner. Another likeness is the main characters liking a person, within the clique; but decided to go out with another person that they didn’t like who is also within the clique; and then they both broke up with the person they are dating in the most inappropriate of ways, resulting to the whole clique not talking to the main characters for a while.

Another  review that I saw mentioned a similarity of “The Year We Became Invincible” with the iconic teen film, “The Breakfast Club”. The clique in the novella is an unlikely mix of friends: The It-Girl, The Jock, The Art Freak, The Smart-Ass and The Ballerina. And what do you know, the film also has its own set of five characters who cannot be more different from each other but eventually became friends: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.

I think I am being too far-fetched but I see the love-hate relationship of the siblings from another popular teen film “10 Things I Hate About You” between Camille and her younger sister. Plus there’s this list Camille wrote near the latter part of the novella that bears semblance with the list from the said film. It’s about the things that Camille likes and doesn’t like about her love interest. She listed seven things (seven things, a reference to an old Miley Cyrus song?) that she likes about the guy but can only think of one thing that she doesn’t like about him: he doesn’t love her back.

So you get the point, the novella is a hodgepodge of stuff pulled from here and there, resulting to a watered down impact of its coming of age theme. Do not get me wrong, getting inspiration from other forms of art is not bad at all, but I guess it just did not work for me here. The main character is developed alright but the other characters are paper thin. I find it hard buying the instant closeness and  friendship among the “invincibles”. The romance is ordinary. There are moments that are trying to be big or sweet but I did not feel anything, most probably because I have read or seen those already. There are sudden bursts or display of emotions from characters that seem unnatural because it lacks proper build up. One example is the part where a character is panicking and shouting at the hospital because his girlfriend was in an accident. Another example is when Camille and her sister made up in page 108.

Another problem for me are some plot elements that are not tightly woven. Camille and her childhood bestfriend had a falling out scene and a make up scene a few dialogues later (could have used a few build up also, felt unearned, TBH). The author then suddenly used the bestfriend character as a plot device to reveal a new conflict for Camille so the supposedly sweet making up scene between bestfriends just turned sour. Another instance is when Camille’s adult older sister ran away from home and Camille was like, “Where could she be?” when she could have just texted or called her sister to know what’s really going on. But no, Camille ignored her basic teenager instinct to reach for a smartphone just so the plot can go further.

"When will we stop being too young to know what true love really is?"

To be fair, I checked out the author’s website, read some snippets of her other works and they seem more than decent. Her writing is clear and straightforward, perfect for the voice of a a young person. This novella is surely just not for me, probably because I am too old and have seen too much. I finished it in one sitting though and what kept me engaged and glued to the pages is Camille’s voice. Her naivety and innocence is charming. She shines when she is alone with her thoughts, mulling over teenager things. “The Year We Became Invincible” is an honest attempt to portray a girl’s hopes and fears and I can imagine readers of Camille’s age being able to relate with it and even be impressed by it.


My Rating:

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