Required Reading: ‘Things I Can’t Forget’ by Miranda Kenneally
Okay, I know what you’re thinking… “A book review?! What is this chicanery?” Sometimes we like to keep things interesting and mix it up a little. Yes, this site is 90% TV, 5% worshiping Meryl Streep, and 3% thorough analyses and philosophical discussion of Channing Tatum’s abs. But that leaves 2% left for books and Nutella! And I only write about the books I really, really like, so you can bet it’s worth your time. Granted, I have the literary taste of a very articulate 14-year-old, but that’s neither here nor there. The latest book I’ve deigned to grace you with the pleasure of knowing is Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally—one of my favorite authors, and easily a front-runner for the Coolest Person in the Universe Pageant. (I’ve met her a few times, no big deal.) Full disclosure: her book is a Young Adult novel about a girl who falls for a fellow camp counselor (but it’s about way more than that), so if you stopped reading books for teens when you stopped being an actual teen (well, bully for you, you evolved creature, you), then this might not be your thing. Or maybe it is—either way, I’m not judging. But if you like smart, funny, romantic books about love, faith, and using Crisco to make campfires, then please read on…
Miranda Kenneally’s latest novel Things I Can’t Forget tells the story of a girl whose religious beliefs are tested when her best friend decides to get an abortion. Faced with the guilt of helping her friend terminate her pregnancy, eighteen-year-old Kate Kelly struggles with the arguably un-Christian customs of the camp she’s working at over the summer, such as male and female counselors sleeping in the same cabin. When she falls for one of the other counselors, Kate starts to question her own “sinful urges” (those are my quotes, not the author’s) and grapples with her beliefs about what is acceptable in the eyes of God.
[MILD SPOILERS BELOW]
Kenneally doesn’t shy away from controversial issues like religion and sex. She faces both head-on, delving into her characters’ religious beliefs, as well as their sexual desires and experiences. Despite Kate’s Christian upbringing, she and Matt go pretty far, and the scenes between them are described in detail—no “and then he pulled me under the covers and we kissed until morning”s or “dot dot dot…” cutaways here. Although this might make one hesitant to recommend this book to younger readers, I admire Kenneally’s open dialogue with her readers about sex. The fact is, most teenagers have the same sexual thoughts and desires as the characters in Things I Can’t Forget. And while Kate and Matt do get rather intimate with each other, Kate still represents a girl who is in full control of her own sexuality. She tells Matt what she’s ready for and what she’s not, and he never forces her to do anything she’s not comfortable with. While it may not be as PG as some other YA series, Things I Can’t Forget teaches teens that they are in control of their own bodies, their choices, and their beliefs.
Things I Can’t Forget is the third book in Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series, and several characters from the previous two books (Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker) make memorable appearances (particularly Parker and Will). One of the most impressive things about this series is that every story is told from a completely different point of view. Miranda Kenneally’s books always challenge you to see things from another perspective—whether it’s that of a sheltered Christian who’s learning not to judge others, a lonely girl with a bad reputation for the wrong reasons, a scared friend who just wants to find forgiveness, or even a disgruntled romantic rival acting out of spite. Things I Can’t Forget forces you to look at things from every point of view, because they’re all valid, even if they seem petty or selfish from a distance. Eventually Kate learns to accept that “your truth isn’t everybody else’s truth.” Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, their own reasons, their own things they can’t forget. Only when Kate acknowledges this does she really start to come to terms with her own.
Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally, published by Sourcebooks Fire, March 2013—Visit MirandaKenneally.com for more information about this book and the rest of the Hundred Oaks series.