Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu (October 23)
Overview: Stella Canvas knows that her love story is disappointing. That's why she tells you how it ends from the outset. The final fight is the opening chapter. From there, we learn about their tumultuous, unhealthy relationship that started in philosophy class and went up in flames when they realize that they're just two teenagers, and it's impossible to be the world for each other. While dealing with the scraps of her own relationship, Stella is also contending with her parents constant fighting and her two best friends who are slowly slipping away from her as she falls into Kevin. Most of all, Stella is fighting to get to a place of stability with her own depression. Overall: 5
Characters: 5 Everyone in this book is so real. From her best friends Katie and Lin to her struggling parents and Kevin's best friend, Yago. Even passive characters have their own motivations and complexities.
I loved Stella. Her battle with depression was so honest, and her desperation to make things work with Kevin was heartbreakingly relatable. Her comments made from hindsight pulled at heart strings, and the way she justifies her choices ring sadly true to most people.
With Kevin, as an outsider, you can see the manipulation setting in. Yu does a wonderful job of making Kevin both compelling and clearly destructive. We're able to sympathize with Stella and understand her inability to let him go, but he's never romanticized or idolized.
Plot: 5 I love the way that the book is stitched together. It lets us into varying aspects of her life from her fragmenting family relationships, her tension with her therapist and understanding her mental health, and her friendships. I loved that the book always circled back to Stella improving herself and working to right wrong with her friends and family so they can be closer. Yu made sure to always prove that friends were more important than her romantic relationships in the long run.
Writing: 5 The formatting was an awesome vehicle for conveying the story. Pay attention to the chapter numbers because they bounce around from the end of the relationship to the beginning. While it could be a trainwreck, Yu works it perfectly to give the fullest picture of her life and the relationship. It was the perfect picture of a toxic relationship that highlights the warning signs and gives commentary from hindsight. Seeing her realize where it went wrong and the mistakes she made made the book unique and important. Yu also knows how to pull at emotions. I noticed as I read the tense moments, I started taking on Stella's emotions as my own. It's definitely a powerful story.