“I never got it, those magazine articles I read when I was thirteen and anticipating romance. Never understood why they went on and on about finding a guy you could be yourself around. I could be me all by myself. I was already me. I wanted a boyfriend to make me more than me.
Zan was that guy. Zan was that guy, and more. I wasn’t myself with him, I was better than myself—Joy 2.0.”
It’s Joy’s second year since she moved from her beloved home, Claremont, California, to Haven, Utah, an almost exclusively Mormon town where everything and everyone is perfect, 24/7. But there was only one thing that Joy ever found perfect about the place: Zan. And now he’s gone.
Joy’s boyfriend Zan was everything the town of Haven wasn’t— worldly, clever, an individual. He and Joy were inseparable. But at the end of their junior year, he left to go to college in Joy’s hometown. Everyone tells Joy that she’s included in the things Zan wants to leave behind, but she refuses to believe it. Together with Noah, Zan’s best friend and the golden-boy embodiment of Haven, she sets out on a trip to California to find Zan and make things right.
I actually think Back When You Were Easier to Love is very deep, more so than it appears. This isn’t just a book about love. It’s about trying to find all the answers in one place, trying to simplify the world. It could be a job aspiration, an award, a body weight— there are times in all of our lives when we believe that if we can just get one thing, everything will be right, perfect. Sometimes we want to believe it’s that simple. I included the quote at the top because it basically sums up the entire book. It isn’t Zan Joy is obsessed with, it’s the way she can see herself when she’s The Girlfriend of Zan.
And it executes all those deep thoughts quite well, because I think it’s a beautifully written book. It succeeds at being poetic without sounding like it’s trying to be poetic, which is an issue a lot of authors have. It has an effortless quality to it.
The characters are very good and well-rounded, and distinct from each other. So that’s good.
I spent a lot of time as a child in writing summer camp hearing about show-don’t-tell (imply things when possible through concrete details rather than just saying everything outright, i.e. “he was very angry”), so you may notice I’m kind of overzealous about policing that, and I guess there are some instances of telling-not-showing in this book. But it wasn’t so bad, because the whole story is very inside of Joy’s head, with her analyzing things. With the overall tone, it fit okay.
IBTJ Special Awards
I’m giving it an Illuminator because I’ve been personally very struck with the overall meaning and depth. It just spoke to me.
Squee! I really like the romance in this book. It’s very sweet and gentle, and perfect for the story. A certain person in this book is very adorable and chivalrous.
Lyrical award because like I said, I love the writing style. It really sets a thoughtful atmosphere that works perfectly with the themes, the characters, etc.
Wow. This turned into a really positive review. I guess I like this book more than I quite realized… I hope I didn’t over-hype it. But it’s a very nice book.