I never tell anyone I’m interested in reviewing a book unless I mean it. I don’t write a ton of reviews, and often I don’t have time to read at all except for listening to audio books while I’m at work…(reading time cutting into writing time is a cruel paradox for another post).
Anyway, so MONTHS ago, a dear sweet Aussie friend of mine, Tye Cattanach, of The Book Gryffin asked if I’d like to review THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO LIVING, by debut YA author, Lia Hills. The book had just been released in the USA, and she asked if FSG could send me a copy to review if I had the time. I liked the sound of the story, so I told her to sign me up!
Did I mention this conversation happened about a week before I got my agent, a month before I revised TTY for submission to publishers, and two months before I sold my own first novel?
So shortly after the December holidays, which were a blur of revisions, THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO LIVING finally made it to my door. And I was so excited – it looked GREAT! …Annnnd then a rocket took off with me in it, and I have only *just* started to touch back down to the ground.
But what book did I pick up to read as soon as I could see straight again??
THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO LIVING, by Lia Hills
Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
Seven days after his mother dies in a sudden, senseless accident, seventeen-year-old Will embarks on a search for meaning that leads him to the great philosophers—Plato, Seneca, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche—and to Taryn, the beautiful girl he meets at his mother’s wake. Will is desperate to find, however he can, something authentic, something ultimate, something so true he would live or die for it. But is he willing to risk losing Taryn—losing everything—to seek the answers he craves?
Having written a book about a boy who deals a lot with grief myself, I was really intrigued (and okay a little intimidated) to see how Lia Hills approached the subject…and I couldn’t have been more engrossed by the story. I finished this book in two sittings (FAST for me, ok). Maybe I am a sucker for ~boys in pain~, but I found myself directly inside Will’s head (and sometimes his pants), trying to piece together some meaning out of his mother’s death.
Meaning begins to take shape for Will through cleverly-inserted philosophical quotes he comes upon throughout the book. I’ve always leaned toward the Existentialists when it comes to philosophy, but I never felt like the author was trying to push any one opinion or outlook on life down my throat. Will and I interpreted the lines as they came, and I’m not sure either of us came out with a definitive answer in the end…but isn’t that often the point in philosophy?
The other thing I loved about Will’s journey was how he came to change perspective about his mother’s death based on his interactions with other people…even the times when he seemed to keep making all the wrong choices, you could see that he was adding up his experiences, taking tally, and searching for something greater than oblivion.
THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO LIVING had me questioning everything I thought might be right for Will from the beginning, and opened my mind up to the choices and alternatives he was presented with along the way. I love when a book forces me to look at things differently, to reconsider my preconceived ideas about the paths characters should take.
This book was a gem that I highly recommend, and I’d like to thank Tye Cattanach once again for sending it my way!!!