Author: Lauren Bjorkman
I received this book for Christmas from my brother with no real expectations. I knew I’d put it on my Amazon wishlist a while back but couldn’t really remember what it was about. After reading a couple of books I hadn’t really enjoyed, last month, I quite fancied some YA lit and turned to this.
And I was not disappointed!
My Invented Life revolves around a group of teenage friends, dubbed the “theatre geeks”, and how their relationships change during the school production of As You Like It. Our protagonist and narrator is Roz, the 16-year-old sister of Eva. Roz worships the ground her sister walks on and always has. Until recently they’ve always done everything together and been the best of friends. But something’s changed.
After an argument with her cheerleader friend, Eva begins to close herself off from Roz, refusing to tell her anything that’s going on. Then, after finding a lesbian-themed book in Eva’s room, Roz assumes her sister is hiding deeper secrets from her friends. In an effort to ‘show her sister how accepting people can be’, Roz impulsively invents a girlfriend and comes out to her friends. But her actions soon lead to complications and homophobia in the school, and Roz soon realises that emotions and sexuality are much more complex issues than she thought.
This is actually harder to describe than I initially thought. There are so many layers to each character in the book that it’s quite hard to do it justice. When I first started reading, I didn’t think I was going to like it. Roz is a very fast-paced, quick-thinking, impulsive girl – the kind of friend you had in your group who you’d describe as “mad” or “crazy” while giggling and rolling your eyes. It takes a few chapters to get used to this kind of narration; Her thoughts are all over the place and she jumps to conclusions easily without any real rational thought behind it.
But then you realise that all teenagers think that way. Their life is one big drama. And as Roz is an aspiring actress, and has a penchant for being the centre of attention, you begin to understand more about how her mind works.
At the beginning of the book, Roz is quite distanced from her sister. Eva spends most of her time with her boyfriend, Bryan (who, incidentally, is also the object of Roz’s desire), and no longer trusts Roz with her secrets. After finding a lesbian-themed book in Eva’s room, Roz assumes this secrecy is because Eva is a lesbian and having a hard time dealing with it. She decides to tell her friends that she is also a lesbian.
I found Roz’s idea of being a lesbian quite funny. She conjures up different ideas of ‘how to be a lesbian’ in a very stereotypical way to try and convince people she likes girls. Most of her friends see right through her, while there are others who react in a taunting way, avoiding her and putting quite offensive signs and limericks up. In spite of this, Roz never lets it dampen her day and finds her own way to retaliate each time.
The drama crowd are an interesting group of characters. All of them have their own voices, personalities, and backgrounds so you never get the feeling that a few of them are one-dimensional and bland. They’re all believable as real teenagers trying to find themselves.
Carmen is the bitchy cheerleader, out to sabotage Roz’s starring role in the school play. Or is she? This isn’t your stereotypical high school bitch. Carmen has secrets and insecurities of her own. ‘Eyeliner Andie’ and Nico are the unique rebels who Roz begins spending more time with once she’s ‘out’. These are two teens who are closer to finding themselves than the rest of the gang and, as a result, welcome Roz into their arms for trying to express herself. On top of that, we have Jonathan, the newest member of the drama gang with a reputation for being wild. Though, like the others, he also has secrets he’s not ready to face.
I know I’ve made everyone sound like they’re hiding something and it’s oh-so-mysterious. But it really is quite hard to properly explain these characters and what goes on because of how complex they all are. Just like real teenagers, their attitudes and opinions change every day as they try to discover themselves so every page of My Invented Life is a delight.
Roz, as a narrator, is fabulous. As the title suggests, she lives in her own imagintion half the time and conjures up fantasy scenarios rather than faces reality. You get used to it, though. Her discovery of the fact that labels mean nothing and that everyone is much deeper than we’d expect is a brilliant journey to be taken on.
One of my favourite things about these characters is how passionate they are about Shakespeare. They throw insults at each other … but not just normal, schoolyard insults: Shakespeare insults! It’s brilliant. And really believable that this geeky group of theatre fans would be so immersed in stageshows and plays that they’d invent their own way of speaking amongst one another.
This book ended too soon for me. It wasn’t missing anything. I just really didn’t want to leave Roz and her group of friends. By the time I finished the book, I wanted to stay with them. They’d begun to feel like my friends.
Bjorkman’s exploration of homosexuality is deeper than I expected. Roz takes the subject on the chin and tries to immerse herself into a stereotypical role. But as she starts to consider the feelings and emotions of her friends and the affect her ‘coming out’ has had on them, she begins to realise that nothing is ever black and white.
This is such a good read. I read it in 2 days. I really couldn’t put it down. The characters are so complex and Roz’s impulsiveness anf fast-paced world that changes so often is a real page turner. I can’t wait for Lauren Bjorkman’s next book.
This counts as the first book for my GLBT Challenge.