Book Reflection: Conversations With Friends
***This post is not meant to be a review of any sort. Just a reflection and mini analysis of how I’ve viewed love stories and novels involving romantic relationships throughout my life. There are no spoilers or give aways but I encourage you to read the book and let me know what you think!***
I’m slowly getting into novels again. As a child, I devoured them like candy. The ones that I would rapidly consume usually had to involve some kind of intricate fantasy world and/or a literal map in the beginning of the book or I wouldn’t bat an eye at it.
Over time, I started to enjoy more love stories as I grew into puberty, as most people do. I am not ashamed to say that the first teen/young adult love story I read was the Twilight series, which I devoured in its entirety in under 2 months. I got hooked on it right as I got back from living in Europe for 6 years. I was seeing one of my old friends and she asked, “What? You haven’t read it yet?” and then she immediately handed me her copy and assigned me the required reading needed to re-assimilate into American society. Thus, I was hooked! I loved the story, I liked the fantasy world — it was really the perfect transition into more “mature” novels that I started reading that involved, well, real life topics like love, relationships and heartache. And I mean we can of course talk about how maybe that story wasn’t the best example of a healthy relationship, but we were all hooked on it for a reason, and it’s interesting to look back.
And the "real world” books only continued after that. There were the ones that were obviously assigned to me like The Great Gatsby. Or mainstream teen novels that I devoured on my own such as Looking For Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars. I was still enjoying a lot of fantasy and apocalyptic genre stories like The Pretties, Maximum Ride, etc. but slowly I started to crave more stories about love, because well, I was starting to have my first crushes.
I think romance and love novels are a really important genre, especially when it comes to those organized by age group, i.e. in the Young Adult sections. The books we read as pre-teens and teens where there are kids falling in love, asking their crushes out, are a reflection of our own lives — all those stories impact us a whole lot because the stories come to us right when we’re going through the same things. As we enter puberty and our bodies change and the way we look at people and relationships around us change, these books serve as guides, avenues for fantasy and daydreaming, and serve as a tool to unlock a lot of things about ourselves.
As I leaned into my 20s, I haven’t had the desire to really read romance or love novels. I guess I’m at that age where I kind of “know” what love is, and for some reason I felt no more curiosity to read stories about it. Maybe we start to get a little more bitter about these stories after we have a certain amount of experiences?
The exploration of “modern love” stories, both in books and in film/TV, has been very interesting. There’s a lot of differences when it comes to the millennial love language. There’s obviously the inception of technology; texting, instant messaging, snapchatting, dating apps and “sliding into the dm’s” is very much entrenched in the courting culture these days, so much that it’s becoming a predominant way way that people meet sometimes.
I read a book recently that may have finally brought me back to loving romance novels, because the characters were different, the story was more grown up, but it also weaved in the complicated and infuriating reality that is love, chemistry and romantic feelings.
I don’t know how to come out and say it, but I will anyway. I feel that the media I’ve consumed throughout my childhood and pre-teens had a great impact on how I view myself and my sexuality. And I know this is the case for so many people. Whether it was in the movies or TV shows I watched, the culture of people around me, or yes — even the books I was reading — everything was usually overwhelmingly heteronormative. All the love stories I read or was assigned to, never even had a whiff of a possibility that a character could be gay, bisexual or anything other than heterosexual. Sometimes there was a hint here and there, but it often felt like an anomaly that was accepted, but not normalized enough. Movies (and books) like The Notebook and 500 Days of Summer were films I did enjoy and that introduced complex and passionate stories about relationships, but there weren’t enough other stories around me that were suggesting a different version of that love.
And i think that really impacts a person especially as they’re going through puberty and when you’re learning what a crush is, and what it really means to be in a relationship. And now, I’m seeing more and more books, TV shows and movies that are opening up a different narrative, and including characters that are fluid with their sexuality. But it should’ve been happening a long time ago. And I wish sometimes I could grab a couple books or TV shows and take them back to my teenage self and show here that love, like, infatuation and attraction can take many different forms.
And that’s why I enjoyed Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney a lot. I liked the story, especially and the relationships between the characters as well as the unique narrative throughout. It was a modern love story for sure, sprinkled with text-message conversations and highlighting how some of our biggest discussions these days happen through the screen with our friends and lovers. It’s a complex, messy story about complex, messy people who I think, are a fair reflection of how messy human beings are, especially when it comes to romantic love, relationship, commitment, adultery, etc.
The story kind of weaved platonic and romantic love in the same story, which I also really enjoyed — it kind of showed that the intensity of love between friends can be just as fiery as the love between romantic lovers. And the funny thing is, that’s why I’m not even sure how much this book even falls into the category of “love” or “romance”, but it’s definitely somewhere in between because it’s about relationships of all kinds.
I could relate to parts of the main character in a way I didn’t think I could, because she was in the middle of exploring her sexuality and fluidity. Who did she want to be with? What did she want that to look like? I feel like I could’ve used this book in my early or even later teens but from the perspective of a younger woman — a narrative that suggests that love takes many forms, and we learn a lot through mistakes, complexities and relationships.
I’m not sure why this story impacted me so much. Maybe because it was simple something slightly different and it happened to be one of the first love/relationship stories I started reading again in a while. But now, I’m sort of hooked on romance novels again, but I’m hungry for the kind that actually reflect what real love is.