Happy Thursday, Reading Nook!
We're also thrilled to review Six Impossible Things today, a funny story about a young man who learns how to cope with life, family and love, when he and his mom move to a new home.
I've heard a lot about Fiona Wood's writing in the past, but haven't had the opportunity to read her until now - and I'm so glad I did. I really enjoyed this, and I think you guys will too!
Hardcover, 304 pages Published August 11th 2015 by Poppy (first published August 1st 2010)
Format read: ARC via publisher (The NOVL newsletter)
ISBN: 0316242160 e details...
Author Fiona Wood's book sparkles with insightful observations and a quirky narrator, and this book is sure to appeal to many young readers.
Things that worked:
I've read a lot of books over the years, with slightly nerdy guys who end up falling for seemingly unattainable girls. While I generally find such characters annoying, I couldn't help but love Dan immediately off the bat.
He's honest and neurotic, but not in a needy sort of way. Instead, Dan tries to make the best of the situation, after they move to a (smelly!) new home, and he's forced to undergo public school for the first time. Dan readily admits that it's a challenge, but he's also procative in wanting to make the situation better - e.g. trying to fit into school, making friends with his neighbors, and even trying to figure out how to take care of a dog that he's basically inherited.
Dan is basically a fantastic example of an average guy, who understands that he's an average guy, but also takes advantage of his own smarts and innate desire to improve, to make his world better. And I feel like many a reader can relate to him.
Dan has two very key familial relationships throughout the book: his core relationship with his mom, and his relationship with his absentee father. Both are painted realistically, with a lot of questions asked by Woods on both relationships.
For Dan and his mom, Wood does a thorough job of showing how mom and son adjust to living alone in an unfamiliar house, and how both of them have to recalibrate their understanding of one another, and the role they have in one another's lives.
Naturally, Dan feels the need to become the default man-of-the-house, and readers will likely be appreciative of his proactive efforts, but also for his mom's recognition and acceptance of his hard work. Whereas many parents in YA have chosen to hidden the financial truth from the teen in their lives, the fact that Dan's mom accepts his decision to get a job and asks for his help in getting her wedding cake business off the ground, shows that they're very much invested in making this new life work, together.
As for Dan and his father - Dan is very much the typical teen in his refusal to speak to him. While I do think Wood could have spent more time considering what Dan's father's revelation about his sexuality means for Dan, there's also something nice about the fact that it isn't such a big deal. Instead, Dan chooses to focus on his feelings about about being abandoned, which helps propel a lot of other questions and relationships throughout the book.
On love and relationships
While the foundation for Dan and Estelle's relationship stars off as fairly typical for YA: nerdy guy is attracted to hot girl; nerdy guy bumbles in the face of said hot girl; Wood smartly makes the decision to evolve the original bumbling relationship through a budding friendship.
Estelle makes the effort to reach out to Dan for an unexpected project, and we see how they mutally begin to respect each other. They begin actually learning about each other, and what makes one another tick, and it's such a great reminder of just what a real relationship should be based on.
I feel like I've been saying this a lot recently for books I've read, but it's absolutely true in this case: Wood's ending is pitch-perfect.
She wraps up all of the character arcs with aplomb. But more importantly: while Wood helps the characters realize that they're happy with their lives, she clearly also indicates that the best is yet to come.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
I've seen some reviews criticize Dan's crush on Estelle, and his various attempts for trying to figure out whether she feels the same.
While I can understand why people found his efforts weird at times, I would also make the argument that Dan is clearly learning as he goes, and candid about his mistakes. He doesn't attempt to hide anything from Estelle or his mom, and preemptively apologizes when he is confronted about why some of his actions weren't necessarily the best idea.
It's a pretty realistic view of a young teen who is working out just how to operate realistically and with boundaries in a relationship, and Wood makes it clear that she believes that he'll come out better for all of his experiences. However, I'd love to hear what all of you think!
Many of Dan's problems - from trying to adjust to living in a one-parent household; to working toward trying to find a job, so he can help save a family pet - are overwhelming for anyone his age. So it's both gratifying and rewarding to see an author treat his challenges realistically, along with his genuine, heartfelt efforts to grow. Moreover, Dan shows that change can be challenging, but can also bring many new benefits into a person's life - including better relationships all around.
I strongly recommend Six Impossible Things for contemporary fiction fans, but also for readers who enjoy nice coming-of-age romances as well.
About the author:
Fiona Wood has worked as a screenwriter for more than 10 years. Her first novel, Six Impossible Things, was short-listed for the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year (Older Readers). She is also the author of Wildlife, which won the CBC Australia Book of the Year (Older Readers) Award. Fiona lives in Melbourne, Australia. (Author photo by Giulia McGauran)