Remembrance by Michelle Madow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
UPDATED BELOW WITH INFO ON THE REMEMBRANCE TOUR!
I remember the first time I heard "Love Story," by Taylor Swift. It seemed different for her, intense and kind of haunting, and I loved it (2,000,000 times later I admit I may have lost a trifle of that initial enthusiasm, but hey, it's still a good song!). The video that went with it was also pretty cool, and apparently Michelle Madow thought so too, because she imagined a story to go with it, which turned into this book. Here's her discussion of how that happened at her blog, btw, if your're interested: http://blog.michellemadow.com/2011/07/ho... This isn't a literal retelling of the "story" of the song or the video, it feels more like an attempt to capture the emotions, the vibe, the atmosphere of the video in a contemporary setting (with flashbacks to Jane Austen times - yes, it's rife and replete with Pride & Prejudice references). I think it does a great job of creating that crazy feeling of being desperately in love, especially with the "wrong" person who feels so painfully right that you aren't whole without them. The characters are great. Elizabeth/Lizzie (get it, Bennett fans?) and Drew (he's the reason for the teardrops on her guitar, yes, I'm a big TSwift nerd, #sorry i'm not sorry)are so intense and dreamy that it's hard not to get caught up in their emotions. In some ways I get a little bit of a Twilight-y vibe from their relationship, that whole "I have to make you hate me because I'm not good for you" thing, but it's not in the least bit off-putting, because it adds to the mystery and tension build up for when they finally explode together. There's lots of classic YA elements here, quasi-reincarnation, past lives getting a second chance, attraction to best friend's boyfriend, bad break-ups, throwing pebbles at the window (pinecones, this time), sneaking out to the garden to see you, all mixed up together and served fresh.
I really thought it was cool that this was initially written for a freshman creative writing class - it totally reminds me of the story that opens Jennifer Echols "Love Story," the one that Erin writes in her creative writing class. Weird that the name of that book is the song that inspired this one. Like I alluded to above, it's not just the story and the lovely writing that I find so charming, it's also how it came to be, and the author's enthusiasm and brio, as she brings it to life. Kind of like Taylor Swift when she first started out (I have kind of had it with some of her subsequent "break-up/you're so mean and I'm not" songs), the sincerity, the warmth and affection for the characters and the feelings of crazy love gone wild infuse this book with that feeling that good YA books always give me, of remembering when life was so intense and every day, every incident, was full of either hope or despair, or some weird combination of the two all at once. So, I hope and trust that you will like this, even if you're not a Taylor Swift fan! It's a fun, sweet and emotional ride.
UPDATE: Michelle is touring now (Spring '12), in support of Remembrance, and I had the chance to meet her (and her charming Mom, Anne) as they visited the Chicagoland area. Michelle is just as awesome, enthusiastic and hardworking as you might expect, and if you'd like to participate in some way in her tour, there are still opportunities available at her Remembrance On Tour site, http://igg.me/p/59041 It's a fun way to support a great book and a deserving young author!