Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Book Review: Fans of the Impossible Life

'Fans of the Impossible Life' by Kate Scelsa
Rating: 1 stars

A copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book has trigger warnings for all sorts of mental health, which I will be briefly discussing in this review. I will also be mentioning student/teacher relationships, although nothing happens within the book that I believe will be classed as a trigger.

Scelsa's debut novel is packed with representation of all kinds, which is what first tempted me to read it. The characters were each from different backgrounds: Sebby being a foster child, Mira being biracial and Jeremy having two dads. It is rare to find a book with racial diversity and extensive LGBT+ representation that also addresses different types of families and mental health, and a lot of the adolescent issues that the characters faced about finding acceptance were what kept me reading initially.

Unfortunately, the very thing that excited me from the premise of this book also became my first problem. Although the three protagonists have issues with mental health, it was not properly addressed. Instead of working through these issues, I feel like they were brushed aside to focus on the character's unique relationship, which I found to be mildly unhealthy at times. The amount of consent between them at times was questionable and the characters become so dependent on one another, yet speak to no one about the problems they face and simply expected each other to not be concerned. I understand that realistically talking about problems like this are difficult, but I found the book to give the wrong message when no one did. When a problem is finally reported it is treated as though it would have been better if nothing had been said at all and it's pretty much left there, and I think this gives a wrong message to young readers who may be dealing with similar issues, especially as we are left as though everything is fine and dandy when it's not.

An unhealthy relationship is also shown with the students and their teacher where he behaved as a close friend who allowed his students to visit his house frequently. Instead of this being addressed as a genuine problem, a positive light is shone on the relationship as though it ought to be encouraged.

I found that none of the characters undergo a major change at any part of the story. They were at the beginning who they were at the end which felt like there was no point to make from the start. Furthermore, I found that a lot of people wanting to read this book were expecting it to address bisexuality (which is often erased in fiction and the media). However, not once was the word 'bisexual' or any variation of the word used and the characters identified as gay throughout, so I do not believe this can be pegged as being more inclusive.

Find this review on Goodreads

- Helia


  1. This book was, in a word, disappointing, and I'm sad that neither of us liked it very much, especially since so many people have praised it.

    I agree with what you said, especially about the teacher relationship. I think that it was super inappropriate, especially when the characters went to his house for food and things. That was super weird, and I found it pretty inappropriate.

    I didn't find that the characters changed at all from the beginning, either. Except that some of their circumstances changed, but that didn't seem to really effect them in any kind of significant way.

    I can only say that I was appreciative of the diversity in this book, even if that diversity wasn't what I was expecting form the blurb.

    1. I wasn't entirely surprised by the popularity of the book as representation is something we all want to see more of, but what I didn't like was that reviews and the blurb falsely promised representation of bisexuality and polyamoury.

      I suppose the unhealthy teacher relationship is seen across all forms of fiction and this could be excused if it were unintentional, but the fact that even the students thought he could have been seeing one of their fellow classmates was like a big warning sign.

      The whole story felt like it romanticised mental health and unhealthy relationships which a lot of reviewers seemed to gloss over. Having said this, I did read an ARC copy of the book so things might have changed. John Green's books have also been accused of romanticising illness when I don't think that is the case, so I suppose different people gain very different impressions from the books they read.