Forgiveness is a divine act.
Well don’t I feel a little foolish right now.
Much as I can get hypercritical and nitpicky in certain estrogen cycles, I am not averse to give credit where credit is due. This was a pleasant surprise. This was one of those rare reads that I almost wrote off as something that was way off the mark when, as it turned out, I was really just an impatient grasshopper. And I’m not above and beyond admitting to that.
There are certain elements that I expect in realistic contemporary fiction, borne out of reading about them so often elsewhere that I am predisposed to denounce everything outside of those rigid standards. This started off with antiquated notions and hardly interesting conflicts that it felt like these people were making a mountain out of a mole hill.
But ‘realistic’ is such a fluid concept and when you think about it, this could also be someone’s present tense reality. And while it might feel a little like cheating, choosing a subpar take off point for Colette, there’s no denying the leaps and bounds her character gained in terms of development. It’s a remarkable, brave feat to write about LGBT coming-of-age stories but to carry that message in a reality as startling, if not more, as the standard YA contemporary fare is one that sets this apart from the rest.
The story is told entirely from Colette POV, with her former best friend, Sadie Pepper inviting her to join her family for a holiday in Greece. She says yes, even if she’s already made plans to spend summer in Costa Rica with her perfect boyfriend, Mark, to build houses for the poor. The entire first quarter of the book reflected Colette’s anxiety over her pretentiously perfect life on the cusp of change: her other best friend Louisa is leaving, the distance between her and Mark has been growing and now, her former best friend decides to make a reappearance in her life.
My Best Friend, Maybe was a slow gradual reveal of why Colette and Sadie’s friendship fell apart filled with flashbacks, interrupted confessions and conversations cut short. The first quarter of the book was spent languishing in Colette’s first world problems of going to Costa Rica to possibly repair her relationship with Mark or joining Sadie and her mysterious reasons. And yes, it was as annoying as it sounds. But once that was resolved, the story became a bit more interesting.
Don’t get me wrong, it still took a bit of time before I stopped rolling my eyes over Sadie’s juvenile antics but the point is that I stopped. The way this story unfolded it takes a great deal of patience, sensitivity and understanding for one to appreciate what it was trying to convey about family, prejudices and acceptance in the context of a coming of age novel. I felt certain aspects of this story were a little drawn out (the Costa Rica vs. Greece conflict, Sadie’s reason for inviting Colette, Colette and Sadie’s falling apart etc.) and run the risk of painting Sadie and Colette in each of their own shitty, inescapable corners. This of course runs the risk that readers might give up on them entirely before it blossoms into the wonderful story it is, Caela Carter going all out Yoda taking all your feels' names.
I seriously went from being alienated from Colette’s perspective as a seeming church-going country bumpkin from the 70s to identifying with her intentions and misgivings. I love how this was an objective lesson on sexual, racial and religious discrimination without serving any agenda nor vilification of certain stereotypes (I particularly loved how this handled Colette’s Bible-thumping mother). It was an interesting journey, to say the least.
I’m a little undecided on the whole Colette-Sam-Mark issue. I’m wary of calling it cheating and I suspect one’s feelings about that whole subplot will depend on whose side you favour in the Ross-Rachel debacle.
But for the her and now, I’m giving it a reluctant pass.
My head and feels are still proverbially spinning from the
fastslow one this managed to pull, my ranting notes silenced by the surprising sophistication of this author’s sympathetic delivery of a story that hasn’t been told enough.
”I thought I screwed everything up,” I say.
He smiles. “You’re only one person. In the whole universe. You can’t screw everything up.”
ARC provided by Bloomsbury USA. Quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof.