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true lettersWhat: True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan

Who: HarperTeen

When: June 7th 2016

How: A copy of this novel was provided by HarperCollins for review via Edelweiss.

A thoughtful, authentic coming-out story about a high school boy who can only deal with his own truth through secret, unsent letters.

If you asked anyone in his small Vermont town, they’d tell you the facts: James Liddell, star athlete, decent student, and sort-of boyfriend to cute, peppy Theresa is a happy, funny, carefree guy.

But whenever James sits down at his desk to write, he tells a different story. As he fills his drawers with letters to the people in his world—letters he never intends to send—he spills the truth: he’s trying hard but just isn’t into Theresa. It’s his friend, a boy, who lingers in his thoughts.

James’s secret letters are his safe space—until someone leaks them, and words he never meant to share are being broadcast all over school. Will he come clean to his parents, his teammates, and himself or is he destined to live a life of fiction?

4cats2I read this book in two sittings, and I was absorbed by it immediately (which makes me sound like some kind of liquid but whatever, I’m going with it). There were two main things I loved about True Letters from a Fictional Life, which caused the whole absorbing thing:

1) The writing style. It just flowed so well, and it was engaging and interesting, and just. Really. Good. I would 100% read another book by Kenneth Logan, because this writing style is one that I have fallen completely in love with. It was just so easy to fall into the story, and connect with James. A+ writing style, right here.

2) The voice. My gosh, I haven’t read such an authentic teenage guy voice in so long, possibly ever. The whole time I was reading True Letters from a Fictional Life, I was just like: y e s. This is how YA books with male protagonists should read. There was just so much reality and authenticity in James’ voice, and I fell for it immediately. I loved the feeling that it gave me – that a teenage guy was telling me his story. Which is just amazing.

Beyond those two things, I didn’t really fall head over heels for anything else in True Letters from a Fictional Life, which sounds bad, but it really isn’t. I just adored the writing style, and the voice, so it was pretty hard for any other aspects of this book to live up to those things. But that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy True Letters from a Fictional Life, otherwise it would never have received four stars from me (although those stars are mainly for the writing style and the voice which I will stop talking about now).

This was a different “coming out” story to any others that I have read – which just goes to show the people who say “we have enough coming out stories” really don’t know what they’re talking about. Coming out stories are varied and wildly different and just. Yes. The interesting thing about the “coming out” aspect of this story is that James only willingly told a handful of people about his sexuality. The others were told in other ways, which were really not so great.

James was a character that I really enjoyed reading about, but I didn’t love him. There were problematic things he did and said, but there were also times that I really felt for him, and liked the things he did and said. So … he was pretty much a normal human being (THE VOICE. THE VOICEEE). He was never really unlikeable, per se, but I am not entirely sure that he and I would have been friends if we had gone to high school together. But reading about characters who are different from the people that surround you is one of the great things about reading.

The romance was adorable. I don’t really want to go into it all that much, but it was sweet and pretty slowburny, and I shipped it quite a lot.

One of my favourite characters was Hawken, who is James’ best friend (and object of affection). His acceptance and support of James really just gave me the warm fuzzies. I have to say I kinda shipped these two a little more than the actual ship, but I couldn’t help it. Even James’ brother and friend thought that they were a coupe once James told them he was gay. And they were just really cute together.

To be honest, there is even more I could say about this book (like the letters! Which is how James expresses his true feelings and thoughts towards people and things. And Aaron! Who is a sweetie pie and goes through shit. And family being present! And awesome friendships!), but this review is pretty long already. So I will finish with this: if you’re looking for an incredibly engaging story, an authentic teenage guy voice, and a “coming out” narrative that goes to show we will never stop needing these stories, then give True Letters from a Fictional Life a go. It won’t let you down.

© 2016, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning: homophobia, biphobia, physical assault, excessive alcohol consumption, and bullying in this novel

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Posted on: June 17, 2016 • By: Chiara

10 Responses to In Which I Flail About True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan

  1. I love what you said about this novel! Flowing writing is always great. The teenage guy thing reminds me of Cassel in White Cat, so if you like magic, you might want to check it out. Also, I love your blog theme :D Thank you for putting the trigger warnings at the bottom, and great review!

    #commenting365

    • Chiara says:

      Thank you so much, Eli! Ohhh, I will definitely have to check out that book, because I could always do with more awesome teenage guy novels!

      I’m so glad you like it! And it’s no problem including the trigger warnings. Thank you :D

  2. I am… such a sucker for lovely writing styles. (Though perhaps you have gleaned this by now. ;) ) Also: letters!! Did I ever tell you that I wrote a novel in letters once? Looking back on it I am sure it was rather horrible, but my love for novels in letters has never waned. I cannot wait to pick up this book, truly. Thank you for sharing it with us, Chiara. <3

    • Chiara says:

      Me, too! And also letters. So if James had been a character I adored then this book would have been pretty much perfection. Ohmygosh, you never told me that! When I was a young teenager, I was co-writing a novel with a friend that was told completely in letters. ;D

      I hope you love it, Topaz! No problem, as always <3

  3. SO HAPPY you enjoyed this one, Chiara. I love when there’s an authentic male voice!

  4. Romi says:

    Aah! So the fact you loved this voice so completely, that alone makes me feel as if I should give this one a go (also the Pez dispenser on the cover is also a bonus, because that is A. reminiscent of childhood, and B. adorable; not to mention I adore illustrated covers, so all the plusses to this one) especially because I don’t feel like I’ve read very many male characters in recent years (Leif in Deltora was aces, though) that have felt completely genuine. I actually feel like I struggle with reading male-perspectives/narratives, although I love to write them? So it’s weird. It could just be that I don’t personally see things from the same persepctive as any of those characters, but I’ve had such a run (and I hope you’re aware JB is excluded from ALL OF THIS) of annoying male MCs who just winge and whine and annoy the heck out of me, and I’m definitely ready for something different.

    It’s actually interesting that you say you weren’t the biggest fan of James, despite feeling like his voice was really genuine, because unless I’m in the moment with characters who I don’t like but still feel completely real I always find it hard to reconcile those two elements. And I mean, I think it would have been awesome if you could love James, and also have the experience of narrative that just felt so right, but I’m glad you still got a little over half of that and could enjoy the book regardless.

    NEVER STOP WRITING ABOUT GORGEOUS WRITING STYLE AND VOICE.

    Lovely review. xx

    • Chiara says:

      YESSS. Add it to your TBR promptly, please. Also: the cover is super awesome, right? I love how vintage it is, as well.

      Haha! I have had some terrible runs with male MCs, as well. Sometimes they can be quite overwhelmingly annoying, but I have found a select few who do not fall into that category.

      It was kind of weird to adore James’ voice, but not actually adore James as a person. I mean, I didn’t loathe him, but I didn’t adore him endlessly, either. It is quite odd that I really loved his voice but not his character, isn’t it? But, I think if you read this book you will know what I mean, and how that came to be.

      IT WAS ALL I WAS WRITING ABOUT XD

      Thank you, lovely <3

  5. Rebecca @ Reading Wishes says:

    This one is on my TBR, and while it sounded good, I hadn’t heard much about it. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. This sounds like one I should check out.

    Also A+ reviewing skills: “and I was absorbed by it immediately (which makes me sound like some kind of liquid but whatever, I’m going with it)” made me laugh ;)

    • Chiara says:

      Yay! I’m super happy this one is on your TBR, Rebecca :D It is definitely worth the read.

      I’m glad I was able to make you laugh with my reviewing skills ;D

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