Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson
5 stars – I’m always disappointed Goodreads rating system; why do we only get 5 stars with which to show our appreciation?
Just a warning, this review as usual contains spoilers!
I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before but I think epistolary stories are my absolute favourite form of novels. To get technical during my Masters in creative writing I found out that letter, emails – or in this case text messages are a perfect device for first person narrative stories. I could go into more details about conditions of narration or placing the reader in an active position; but I’m not writing a lecture today.
Back to the book then. As previously mentioned, it’s written in the form of an on-going text conversation between our two protagonists. Although, according to our heroine, the hero of our piece could actually be considered her antagonist.
I think one of the things I loved about the book, is that despite being completely in texts Johnson doesn’t fall back onto simply using emojis during the parts of the conversation that goes really deep between Haley and Martin.
One of the things I really loved about the book was Johnson’s ability to discuss some really sensitive issues without judgement or it seeming like she was making A Statement about it all. The book covers bullying and isolation – especially how people can be ostracized from their social circle or group of friends; it talks about mental health issues really well too. As someone who suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder myself I really liked how she dealt with Haley’s Generalised Anxiety Disorder and how it can often feel so much simpler to talk to people or to open up when protected by a screen.
She also deals with issues of sexuality that most, if not all, teenagers face throughout puberty. I liked how she very smoothly introduced the idea of the Kinsey Scale as a way for Martin and Haley to discuss their sexual identities without it being dangerous or risky. I did like that although this was a novel with an opposite sex love story; Johnson allowed the protagonists to be more than straightforward cis-het characters.
To be perfectly frank, it would’ve been quite hard for an epistolary novel to disappoint me but I was quite excited by the blurb of the book anyway. From the jacket description it sounded exactly like my kind of go-to contemporary YA and it just got better when I realised what the format would be.
I loved that Haley was so fascinated by facts – any facts really and loved learning and reading any article that came her way. I loved the Martin seemed to reject all the usual stereotypes of a rich middle class white kid.
It was a quick read, partly because of the format but I really fell in love with Haley and Martin and I have a feeling this book will be re-read quite a few times in the coming years.