Ten months after her recurring depression landed her in the hospital, Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a normal functioning human this time, not a girl who sometimes can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.
Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting him.
Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him like a backlit halo. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and secret road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.
As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.
A captivating and profound debut novel, Fans of the Impossible Life is a story about complicated love and the friendships that change you forever.
Fans of the Impossible Life was a book that I pre-ordered about a month ago and it was one that I was very excited to read. Unfortunately, I was a bit let down. My rating of this book was probably a little bit influenced by my personal life philosophy, so I’ll talk about my thoughts on the ‘objective’ aspects of the book first.
First, let’s discuss the writing. I didn’t think the writing was very sophisticated, which isn’t a problem because I love simple writing too. I just feel like there were some scenes that had unnecessary descriptions. Also, the book was written from three different perspectives (Jeremy, Mira, and Sebby) and they were all written from different narrative styles. Jeremy’s chapters were in first person narration, Mira’s in third person, and Sebby’s were in second person. I thought this was completely unnecessary because it didn’t add anything to the story or the tone of the book. I don’t know if it was intended to be a plot device… but if it was, it was very unsuccessful. It just made the whole book awkward for me to read. There just didn’t seem to be a reason for the book to be written this way, and these sorts of gimmicks just turn me off.
The plot of the book was almost non-existent until about page 280 (and the book is only about 360 pages!!). Nothing happened in this book at all – it was very slice of life – until close to the end of the book. After the first 100 pages, I was bored and wanted to DNF, which I never do. The book is also split into 3 parts but I don’t think there was anything that really distinguished Part 1 from Part 2 in terms of plot or theme. Part 3 was when everything started happening, so I understand why that was a separate section, but Parts 1 and 2 just kind of blurred together. In terms of the little bit of plot that we did get, I don’t think there was a resolution at all. I don’t mind that there was an open ending but none of the issues were resolved. I’ll get into this a little bit more further down in my review.
I didn’t like any of the main characters in Fans of the Impossible Life. They felt a little bit pretentious and forced, like the author was trying to make them seem quirky. I thought Jeremy was okay but that might have just been because his chapters were written in first person and I connected with him a little bit more than the other two. I was not into Mira or Sebby at all. What I disliked the most was that there was absolutely no character development in this book. At the end of the book, they’re pretty much where they were at the beginning, except now they’re a group of three instead of a group of two plus Jeremy. I also didn’t really see the friendship developing at all. It kind of just happened – one day they didn’t know each other and then the next day they were friends.
I want to talk a little bit about the themes now, and the first is friendship. This book is supposed to be about friendships and how they can change you, but I thought the author took it too far in this book, or at least not in the direction I thought it would go in. Our three main characters in this book were depending on each other so much that they felt like they couldn’t live without each other. There are mental health relapses that occur when the friendship breaks down and I just really disliked this aspect of the book. Not being able to breathe when you haven’t heard from your friend for 3 days is not normal, at least not in my life. I do recognize that social relationships and having support leads to better mental health but I thought this was taking it too far. This level of dependency on another person is not healthy and I think the book idealised it a bit too much for my liking.
Another thing that I think was romanticized in the book was mental illness. This is a book about mental illness and it was not handled well at all in this novel. Mental illness is present throughout the book but it was never presented as a problem. None of our characters are in therapy or taking any steps to get better or stay better, and the book ends without any of them really acknowledging the problem or taking clear steps towards treatment. It was very unresolved. Mira is seeing a nutritionist in the book as a sort of ‘fix’ for her depression. I’m sorry, but a nutritionist is not able to treat your depression! She doesn’t see a psychologist, and if I remember correctly, the antidepressants that she does have are locked away from her in her mother’s drawer.
I think it’s important to incorporate mental illness into YA books so that readers are exposed to what these disorders look like. But there’s no point in making it a book about mental illness when you don’t properly show the behaviours, cognitions and steps towards treatment that may be involved. You’re almost idealizing mental illness when you don’t acknowledge that it’s a problem. I also don’t think mental illnesses were represented very well in this book at all. Mira has depression but I wouldn’t have known if the book hadn’t explicitly stated that. The only obvious symptom that I saw in the book was fatigue, besides a suicide attempt. Why should I think that depression is a serious illness when it just seems like something I feel on a bad day?
I also had a very big problem with the romance/sex in this book. There were some mature scenes in the book and they really put me off because they didn’t seem to be completely consensual. For example, there is a scene where one person tells another to do something to a third person (and this was all under the influence of alcohol and drugs). I don’t mind YA books that mention sex in them, but I felt like this book romanticized and encouraged this non-consensual behaviour. The author made it seem like it was done out of love for each other when actually one person was pretty much coercing another into doing things. There were just a lot of things that I felt like were not okay.
Overall, I disliked this book quite a bit. It presented a lot of issues that I felt could have been explored more deeply and handled a lot better. I finished the book not really understanding what messages the author wanted to convey. And I just didn’t understand what the point of the book was.