Oct 5, 2011

Review: It's a Wonderful Life by Jesse Goosens

It's a Wonderful LifeIt's a Wonderful Life by Jesse Goossens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reading level: YA
Published: October 3, 2011 Leminiscaat USA (Myrick Marketing and Media)
Source: NetGalley
Summary: Dutch almost-eighteen-year-old Anna is not allowed to go on a Spanish beach vacation with her friends. Instead her parents send her to small town America to spend the summer with her uncle. To pass the time, Anna starts working in an antique shop where she befriends different kinds of people ranging from the local undertaker--a boy her age--to an elderly Jewish couple. Anna could never have imagined that what she thought would be the dullest holiday ever would turn out to be a time where she discovers what life is about.

*the actual rating may be a bit lower than five stars*

Mild spoilers ahead!

I don't even know where to begin telling you how much I liked this book. I love pop-culture references in books and this one sounded great with all the movie quoting. It was not exactly what I imagined it would be, and the movies are not so much in the focus of the story. A great book, nonetheless.
Anna is a "cinephile" who sometimes responds to people using quotes from movies. Cute and interesting as it was in the novel, if someone did this to me in real life, I imagine it would get annoying. Anna almost gets in trouble for it, so I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so :)
It seems as if the author pulls out some YA cliches and adds a morbid twist to it. It feels like an inside joke, and the book is full of them. Girl moving to a new place and the hardships she encounters? Ordering a burger with chilly is not the same in Netherlands and USA. Hint of a love triangle? Two guys competing to organize her funeral take her out. If I tell any more, I'd spoil the book, but it's anything but cliche.
The characters were amazing. Anna is kind of an outcast even among her friends back home, but you feel she doesn't give a damn. Spending the summer on another continent, away from everything she knows, gives her a chance to look at her life and find out who the real Anna is. Down to earth and real, she's imperfect but lovable. Daniel was very interesting and full of surprises. Probably my favorite-a group of nerds who host an annual Toast to the Hoax where they drink in celebration of the greatest hoax in the history of the USA. Who wouldn't love them?
I already mentioned that it's not so much about movies. It's about death. Yep. Death, and funerals, and the prettier side of it. Sometimes it was morbid and sickening, but there was a scene that had me laughing so hard. Who would have thought that tombstone engravings can be so much fun?
This book is magical while being firmly on the ground. It shows you that it's really a wonderful life. My only complaint is the writing. Since it's a translation from Dutch, I can't really judge, but it was kind of bland, too simple and sometimes odd. Luckily, it makes the story no less interesting and charming. Also, the cover doesn't do it justice, the other one resembling a movie poster is much better.
Highly recommended.

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