Book Title: True Letters from a Fictional Life Author: Kenneth Logan Number of pages: 336
If you asked anyone in his small Vermont town, they’d tell you the facts: James Liddell, star athlete, decent student and sort-of boyfriend to cute, peppy Theresa, is a happy, funny, carefree guy.
But whenever James sits down at his desk to write, he tells a different story. As he fills his drawers with letters to the people in his world–letters he never intends to send–he spills the truth: he’s trying hard, but he just isn’t into Theresa. It’s a boy who lingers in his thoughts.
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– Male LGBT version of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” with letters woven into the story
– Protagonist takes on more of a reactive role instead of truly coming to his own self discovery
– Family dynamics and bromance game is strong
– Romance may be slow burn but felt lackluster
– A solid entry to LGBT YA contemporary reads
Shelly (Read, Sleep, Repeat) told me to read this. So I did.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of True Letters from a Fictional Life from Indigo.
To put it briefly: True Letters feels like an amalgam of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before blended with LGBT (re: gay) themes. I can’t confirm if this is true since I haven’t read To All The Boys, but it sounds like it from the blurb.
While I haven’t experienced this exact story, the blackmail trope (ish) is something I’m familiar with and rather numb to.
Small town Vermont vibes set the table for this inner-and-outer conflict driven story and I appreciated the subtleties to the imagery; not being overwritten and just left as is. This essentially allows the reader to pull from other mediums to build upon the generally nondescript buildings.
But honestly…less is more with this type of story.
Also, I’m sure there are much more interesting things to do every day than party and drink but why do I feel like that’s all these characters did (and wine too? classy AF).
Part of the narrative formatting includes the protagonist’s would-be letters to a certain individual. The juxtaposition of a his true voice versus what he openly indulges his friends and family with is some of the most heartbreaking parts to this story. This degree of candor is evident throughout every thread in this story; particularly in the remarks being made indirectly at him when his buddies openly joke about LGBT members in society. It may piss you off but it’s still very real today.
But I have to make this clear: the central conflict reads rather passive and the protagonist takes on a reactive role to the situation once the floors fall beneath him. I guess you have to be okay with reading about a story where passivity gets derailed and that choice of “coming out” gets taken away from him. From that regard, True Letters handles the struggles with enough care that it doesn’t seek to sugarcoat or gloss over crumbling relationships but acknowledges them for what they are even if they may be conveniently restored.
My detective skills failed me this time around around as I was unable to decipher, with certainty, the individual who mailed the letters out. This is important because as much as this story is focused on the self-examination of James Liddell, the hook of this narrative revolves around the mystery to who disclosed his personal property.
The family dynamics stands out in this book. It finds the right balance of faltering parental guidance (re: when you don’t grow up to who they expect you to be) with the omnipresent sibling relationship that sells this LGBT coming of age so well. To be frank, I hated how the parents regarded the news. I also thought they could have done better to educate the youngest son (note: James is the middle child). But these imperfections were written with authenticity of families today that it is difficult for me to take away points for its sound representation.
The romance in this story is the biggest misstep for me. While necessary to flesh out the conflict, the relationship felt shallow and lacked genuine substance to sell their likeness to actually develop into something more. It just felt to me like MC thought suitor was cute and that’s it, done deal, ship sailed.
But to further expand on that point, the social circles in this story are difficult to buy into. I had to suspend belief when characters were incredibly buddy buddy with those from other schools (higher than acquaintance level of friendship). This obviously isn’t impossible but this small group of buds from different cliques meshing so well together has me giving the side eye.
All seriousness aside: the bromance game in this book is strong; bro feels are so so strong.
This book has heart, struggles, and the voice rings authenticity and feels unequivocally “normal” (or as normal as can be). It’s a short and effortless read for those who need another entry into their diverse repertoire of young adult fiction.