Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (Balzer + Bray, 8 September 2015)
FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE is gorgeously written and depicts something curiously new in YA: instead of your standard love triangle, we have three people who all have romantic and/or sexual feelings for each other in some way. And Scelsa handles this so deftly and beautifully.
Jeremy goes to St Francis Prep; an incident at school the year before has made him a loner who avoids talking to anybody else. But Jeremy loves art, and when he's encouraged by his favourite teacher to start an art club, he has to get ten signatures from other students. Mira's is the first one he gets. She's a new student at St Francis who suffers from depression. Her best friend is Sebby, a gay boy who lives in a foster home and doesn't go to school at all; the two of them met in the psych ward in hospital ten months ago, each with their own demons to battle. When Jeremy talks to Mira and Sebby for the first time, he feels instantly drawn to the two of them. Together, the three of them form an intense friendship and aim to live the impossible life: a defiant life of magic and magnificence in an otherwise sad and terrifying world.
When I read FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE, I almost couldn't believe what I was reading. This is a book saturated with queer content: Jeremy and Sebby both identify as gay, Jeremy has two gay dads, and there's also Rose and Ali, two lesbian side characters involved in a somewhat turbulent relationship with each other. And despite the fact that Jeremy and Sebby ID as gay, both their relationships with Mira are sexually charged in some way. It's a little ambiguous, it's possibly some sort of polyamorous mess, and it's GLORIOUS. I love it. The blurb says: "This is the story of a girl, her gay best friend, and the boy in love with both of them." But I'd say that really, they're all in love with each other. Mira and Jeremy and Sebby. It's the first time I've seen a YA book go there with sexual content involving three people all in bed together at once and all in love with each other, and I was so, so amazed and happy.
Honestly, I just love all the scenes when the three of them are together and they lie close together, all touching, silent. Those scenes are just so intimate and heart-achey.
Sebby's a wonderful character: flamboyant, irreverent, hilarious. But so much hurt lying underneath that flippant and witty facade, so much that he can't tell anyone about. I loved him, and my heart broke for him over and over again. My heart broke for all three characters all the time, really, but for Sebby the most, because, as he himself recognises, he is the only one among the three who falls through the cracks, who doesn't really have any form of family that cares for him other than Jeremy and Mira. Jeremy has great dads who try their best to keep up with his life and look after him, and Mira's family are present for the most part and well-meaning, even if they unintentionally trivialise and overlook Mira's problems. But Sebby? Sebby's an orphan in a gigantic foster family with one single, homophobic foster mum who doesn't seem to care about his welfare in the slightest.
Jeremy's the quiet one and I identified with him so much. He feels ordinary and invisible, awkward and friendless, and he's the one pulled into Sebby and Mira's dazzling lives, entranced by their endless, easy quips and Sebby's flirtatious charm. I was utterly fascinated by Sebby and Jeremy's relationship, the searing and beautiful attraction between the two, the comfort they find with each other. The scene of their first kiss is electrifying and so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.
Last but not least: Mira. I loved the way the author depicted what it's like to live with depression through Mira's chapters. Mira's thrift shop obsession and her expression of her personality through her unique fashion style certainly leave an impression.
I must admit I enjoyed the first half of the book a little more than the second half; the second half felt compressed and hasty in places, and I found the ending in particular rushed. I would have liked to spend more time with Sebby. Each of the three main characters get chapters told in their perspective; interestingly, Jeremy chapters are narrated in first person, Mira chapters in third, and Sebby in second, and I'm pretty sure there were fewer Sebby chapters than Jeremy and Mira ones. I wanted to read more about how Sebby was feeling in the last stages of the book, since there was a lot going on with him that the reader wasn't fully informed about.
FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE feels like a relatively short read, but it is a powerful and complicated and messy love story between three teenagers. I cannot wait for more of Scelsa's work, if her debut novel is this good.