THE ART OF SURVIVING
Love is love is love; regardless of gender or “race”, as members of the human race, we all presumably have the capacity to love and the connate desire to be loved. Love is necessary sustenance. We were meant to feel and as KT Tunstall put it, “I feel it all.” This can be a vulnerability when life sucker punches you with a tragedy like the loss of a mother. Trauma teaches you to juke, avert, dive, parry, numb, attack, run, or even avoid feeling. That last one is probably unsustainable but when you’re hurting, reason is a luxury. Survival is a must.
The Art of Feeling explores a love story between two young women who have been caught by a few of life’s painful punches but somehow are able to help each other access joy in spite of their trauma. The book also incorporates a bit of Clare’s father’s struggle to overcome his own grief and be a supportive father to Clare. This is topic that I found refreshing in a YA novel. In the beginning, Elizabeth Jeannel weaves the story with meticulous detail that successfully introduces us to Kleine “Clare” Ghimmel and her father. Clare is not rich, she still has nightmares about her mother’s death, and she has a criminal record (nothing serious but sometimes that hardly matters).
When we meet Alexa, she has resigned to experience but feel nothing. She is a mixed-martial artist, she lost her mother at a young age, and her father is a callous demagogue; so her decision to turn off her emotional-valve seems logical.
TRANSFORMATION | VALIDATION
Clare and Alexa meet and they find themselves drawn to each other. It’s high school so there hardly has to be a cosmic pull; Clare is the new girl and Alexa is popular due to her father’s community standing. However, after their first introduction, they continue to feel drawn to learn more about one another and be near one another. They share their stories with each other and a spark ignites. It is a first for Clare. She had yet to have the kind of feelings she was having ever before. Furthermore, Clare had not entertained the idea that she even could have such feelings for another girl. She makes the transition from realization to acceptance without much issue. Thankfully, her father is resolute in just wanting her to be happy so the reader is spared the homophobic parental rant (it’s a valid, real-life thing that happens, but I’m glad to imagine it doesn’t happen that much).
Alexa has been in love before, but not like this. Just knowing Clare has proved to be transformative for her. Loving someone changes your perspective in life…your priorities. Being loved in return validates you, the real you.
FEEL IT ALL
Most of the action in this novel revolves around, well, feelings. This isn’t a Thriller, though there is always a thread of suspense for me when reading any work with a character that identifies as LGBTQ+; I’m always hoping they stay ALIVE. There are some abrupt shifts in character point-of-views, but as a fan of fanfiction, it would have to be unbearable for me to let it get in the way of solid content. I would love to see a follow up to this book. I would have liked for there to have been even more character development/exploration especially with Mr. Ghimmel and Miss Susie, but that is not to say that the characters weren’t great.
Did I love it? Yes. It is a solid YA contribution with real people, problems, solutions, and hope. It also happens to be the sort of positive LGBTQ+ representation the world needs.
The Art of Feeling is available for pre-order and will be released May 31, 2017.
[Review not written for compensation; all opinions expressed are my own]