The List of Real Things by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Published: March 29th 2018 by Hachette Children’s Group. (I received an ARC copy via net galley in exchange for an honest review)
“The captains of our lives were gone and so was the great safe boat of love we’d sailed in”
Grace knows the difference between what’s real and the strange ideas that float around in her little sister’s mind. Their parents died – that’s real. A secret hotel on the cliff-top where their parents are waiting – definitely NOT real. So when grief strikes again, Grace is determined not to let her sister’s outlandish imagination spiral out of control. But the line between truth and fantasy is more complicated than it seems…
This a very hard book to put my finger on. It’s a story of loss and trying to get through life the best you can and how these two very young people and the people around them deal with it. It’s not a book I would usually pick up but the synopsis drew me in with the promise of “The line between truth and fantasy is more complicated than it seems.” That being said this is very much a contemporary book but I did enjoy the way the “fantasy” is linked to the story although the is it/isn’t it real concept is a very well trodden troupe. Nether the less despite it’s faults this simple read has the power to inspire and comfort.
I found the writing a challenge to get on with at first. There is one scene in particular that stood out to me when two people are arguing and it’s literally just dialogue back and forth with nothing in between. I lost track of who was saying what and it felt it was lacking emotion with no description of how these two people were saying these words or what they were feeling as they said them. it felt especially strange as the author at other times feels like an absolute poet, this book is filled with some fantastic, very profound feeling quotes. For example; “He was trying to look cheerful but sad people have invisible weights pressing down on them, and when they breathe in it sucks air out of the room and everyone feels it.” These kind of lines gave this book such an extra depth but it meant that at other times certain parts felt flat in comparison.
The plot for this book is rather simple, fairly predictable and a smidgen over done. Saying that however I did enjoy the way this particular idea was carried out. I will admit that I grew very frustrated with the plot for the first half, if not two thirds of the book as we would start done one part of the story and then there would be no real conclusion, no continuation, it would just end and something else would happen. On reflection I feel however that it did fit with the narrator being a fourteen year old, her mind didn’t focus on one thing too long if she didn’t deem it important, she would make her point and move on. Although these parts frustrated me I now feel that actually this may have been really clever. The last third of the book played out very much as I thought it would from the beginning but I still found it mostly satisfying to get that conclusion and again the language and prose made this last part much more enjoyable. I will also add that this book made me cry at seven in the morning, I was a wreck.
I found it hard to put my fingers on some of these characters. The narrator is Gracie who is fourteen and the story mainly focuses around her and her sister Bee who is six. The young age of the characters does make this book feel more like a middle grade book then YA but I’m almost thirty and it spoke to me so I feel this isn’t too much of a problem and just makes it a nice simple read. Bee did confuse/irritate me to begin with as the way she spoke was very strange and felt so unlike a six year old that I would often forget how young she was. “Quite right…and as you know under normal circumstances I wouldn’t dream of it, but Gracie this is an emergency of gargantuan proportions!” This is just one of the examples, Bee talks in large words, convoluted sentences and is a lot deeper than any six year old I’ve ever met. On reflection though I think this is meant to show that she is a little strange and perhaps picked up from spending a lot of time with her elderly grandfather. I got a bit more used to it in the end but it never really stopped pulling me out of my immersion if she went over the top a little too much. Gracie was a very stereotypical fourteen year old girl with a strange little sister and there was a point when I honestly hated her but I understand that she really is just a fourteen year old and some of this did some horrible, selfish things when we were younger we wouldn’t dream of doing now. Other characters such as their Uncle Freddie, Grandfather Patrick and Aunt Lucy felt like real people with a sprinkle of stereotypical sprinkled on top for flavour but this worked, especially with Aunt Lucy who I liked the ambiguous feel of.
I feel like for such a simple read I had to get quite deep with my reflections on this book to really get much out of some parts. It was nether the less though a sweet book all the same that does what says on the tin. Reminding me of a very simple, slightly differently themed Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s a very hard book to classify as the plot and ideas are so simple but not necessarily inherently bad. There were parts I enjoyed, there were parts I didn’t but I mostly enjoyed reading it and do not regret doing so.
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