Teen Novel Review: ‘Things I Know About Love’ by Kate Le Vann
Yeah, I still read teen novels despite being of a fairly advanced age. Usually while standing up in Waterstones and leaning on a shelf, sometimes in the public library while whiling away half an hour before an interview or appointment. Want to make something of it? At least it’s not Harry Potter.
Kate Le Vann’s ‘Things I Know About Love’, however, sits on my own bookshelves, proudly bought and paid for. (All right, paid ten pence for in a charity shop when I needed change for the bus. But it still counts.)
Judging by the blurb on the pretty, sickly lilac and pink cover, it’s had some fervidly raving reviews, so my assumption on purchasing it was at least a modicum of literary merit. It’s not an awful book: perhaps just not quite what I was expecting. I think what threw me essentially was the rather standard nature of the teen romance the book is built around. An element of realism, of non-fuzzy, non-sugary emotion and description is about the minimum I expect from an account of a love relationship, whether adolescent or adult, but there’s not a lot of that here.
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Sure, in the early stages of relationship people do have an exaggerated idea of the perfections of their partners or potential partners. It doesn’t mean they can’t assess their own motivations with a thoughtful eye, or notice annoying little things, or make the kind of cold calculation about relative attractions and chances of a cop-off that human beings do make.
There’s not much of that going on here, though. Everything occurs in a kind of warm, fuzzy, bodyspray-scented haze, at least as far as the budding romance between heroine Livia and her potential swain is concerned. From his point of view especially it’s all trad romantic adoration of the love object without any critical distance or initial period of making his mind up about her and ‘er will she do or won’t she?’
There are other things better dealt with in the book however. Livia has health problems that interact with her family relationships and the problems this causes her are outlined quite realistically. The impact on her friendships and her regular school life is also convincing and saddening.
The other major issue dealt with in the course of the book is Livia’s secret blog, a common enough feature of both teenage and adult life (although, apparently from statistics, less so than it used to be probably due to the rise of social networking sites like Facebook.) She deals with her life, love and problems in it: and its guileless intensity is quite touching.
Worth a read? This book isn’t the definitive account of teenage romance, but it does have merits. Give it a go!