Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison (Chicken House, 5 June 2014)
Lobsters is a pretty funny and delightful story about two awkward teenagers who are trying to lose their virginity before they go to university.
Hannah has been looking for her lobster since Year 8, when she and her friends found out that lobsters mate for life. It's now the summer between leaving school and starting uni, and she still hasn't found her lobster. Or lost her virginity, for that matter. Sam is in the same situation, and he is about to meet Hannah for the first time in a bathroom at a house party–an encounter that will change the rest of their summer.
This book is painfully real. The characters are all very flawed and they do stupid things sometimes and they're both pretty clueless teenagers in some respects and it's just so, so real. Gross and confusing and embarrassing things happen. A lot of the time, you read a book and you fall in love because everything seems so nice and romantic. This isn't that kind of book. And that's great! We need more books that are this realistic. Some of it totally reminds me of the way I felt when I was first getting together with my boyfriend.
So yeah, I liked that it was realistic! We need more books like it.
The book alternates between Hannah and Sam's POVs. Surprisingly, I liked both equally. Most of the time, with books that feature more than one POV, I will almost certainly prefer one above the other(s), even if it's just by a little. This was not the case here. I found both enjoyable to read. I think it's because Hannah and Sam are both pretty awkward in their own ways and I love awkward characters. I also liked Hannah and Sam's friend groups and the very different dynamics within these groups. Sam's friends were especially hilarious.
Hannah's friend group had all the drama. Hannah's friendship with Stella is the main focus of the book besides Hannah and Sam's romance, and god, is this friendship complicated! Stella can be a pretty terrible person sometimes, and Hannah knows it. The other two girls in the group, Tilly and Grace, seem so much nicer, and I really wanted to know more about them. But Hannah's best friends with Stella. Sometimes it was difficult for me to understand why Hannah was best friends with Stella, but I think the point is that sometimes Hannah doesn't understand why she's still friends with Stella either. And sometimes friendships are like that. It's complex and it's probably the most interesting thing in the book.
The plot basically comprises all the typical teenage misunderstandings and communication mishaps and fights and the drama of people getting off with people they shouldn't be getting off with. It's all done pretty realistically, and is endlessly frustrating to read in a fairly entertaining way.
The ending. Hmm. The ending. The book left me feeling unsatisfied. I don't think we really got enough of Hannah's feelings at the end of the book. I feel really conflicted about the ending because in some ways I think it's great and funny and realistic, but I just wanted more from it. This book is really very much just a snapshot. One summer. That's it. It ends abruptly and it doesn't really give you much sense of what will happen afterwards at all. And while that's an interesting concept and it mirrors life accurately, it left me feeling oddly empty. I'm used to books that have a bit more promise of what the future is like after the book, I guess. And I was surprised that we didn't get more insight into how Hannah and Sam felt about the future.
I think it's a good book for teenagers to read, because it's very authentic and true to life about the imperfection of things. It doesn't have a grand and sweeping vision of life and love. It's ordinary and bittersweet. There's a lot in here that many teenagers can relate to. I definitely enjoyed it a lot, but at the same time I also felt that it lacked something–I can't quite put my finger on what. I think the book failed to make me really care that much about the characters. I liked them, but I didn't feel invested in their emotions and their inner conflicts. My enjoyment hinged mostly on the humour and the realism of the story.
Still, if you're looking for a funny and down-to-earth contemporary novel and you're tired of books that romanticise life too much, you can't really go wrong with Lobsters.