Friday, December 31, 2010

The Book of Tomorrow

Interesting to review a book that's about trying to change tomorrow as we approach the cusp of a new year. Just saying. I'm not about to go all Old-Year's-Good-Byes-and-New-Year's-Resolutions on you.

Cecelia Ahern's newest novel, The Book of Tomorrow, will appeal to her established audience, but unlike her other books, this one is targeted toward young adults. It has a magical quality to it, as other Cecelia Ahern books do. Sixteen-year-old Tamara discovers a book that writes itself, in her handwriting like a diary, telling her what will happen tomorrow. Each day when she opens the diary, tomorrow's entry is there for her to read...and try to change, or not. Add to this centerpiece a catatonic mother, a secret-keeping aunt and uncle, mysterious neighbors, a wise and loveable nun, a little teenage love, and a partially burned-down castle, and you have the makings of a sumptuous reading buffet for a cozy afternoon.

I have read two other books by Ahern, one of which I loved and one of which hit too close to home for me to wholeheartedly enjoy it, but which was nevertheless real and honest. This newest definitely matches her style and is a worthy addition to her collection. It's emotional, mysterious and, of course, set in beautiful Ireland. The only grievance I had with it, actually, was its targeted audience. I found the F-word pretty early on, though it was used less than a handful of times throughout. Also, Tamara talks about wanting to have sex for the first time with someone she would not be married to later. That kind of threw me off, and I imagined how a 16-year-old me would have been shocked by this content, which is, in comparison to many teenage novels nowadays, tame. But by the time I actually got to a sex scene, surprisingly, I was finding less and less wrong with this novel. Let me explain.

Tamara is the narrator of her story, and she makes no bones about the kind of girl she is...or was before her father killed himself and she and her mother lost their fortune. She was often careless or downright cruel in her treatment of people different from herself or even her family. Throughout the book she becomes less this way, and it's obvious that her new circumstances are affecting her, changing her for the better. So, her cursing and talking about sex at the beginning of the book makes more sense in this light. When she actually has sex, she's just found out something terrible and she runs away and does it as a form of escapism. There's no joy, no reward, no happily-ever-after romance. The author isn't condoning it. And it feels very real, a mistake that some people would actually make. I happen to know the author isn't that prudish because I've read her other books, but in this book, I was pleased with the statement she was making.

I told my husband I wouldn't let a teenage daughter of mine read this, but I've since thought about it more and changed my mind. It's a good book with depth and intrigue, better than some of the other young adult stuff I've read. If I did let my daughter read it, and I probably would, I would read it at the same time, or before, and be sure to discuss it with her after.

I must say, I particularly enjoyed Sister Ignatius, and I'm sure you will too. It was refreshing to have a godly figure also be the voice of reason without additionally being a killjoy in a secular book. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Ahern is religious, though perhaps not Christian. A few might find her nun to be sacreligious, but I think she's perfect, a character to love and listen to when Tamara is making her mistakes.

I love to travel to Ireland with Cecelia Ahern, and I think this is a trip you'll enjoy too. Four stars for The Book of Tomorrow, available February 2011.

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