There’s something truly magical about just spending a few hours reading, with complete disregard for anything else going on in the world. I had that kind of time this weekend and got through two books I’ve been wanting to read for an absolute age: Hayley Long‘s The Nearest Far Away Place, and Jenny Han‘s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
Both of these books are teen reads, and if you know me, you know I love my YA books! (Because I’m young at heart, OK, even though I’m 26 which to most teens is, like, ancient… *insert rolling-eyes emoji + face-palm emoji + granny emoji*) Aside from the fact that they share a genre, though, I found these two books totally different from one another in key areas, and I thought it’d be fun to compare and contrast them over the course of the next few weeks.
As per usual, one of the main things that intrigued me about both books was their focalisers. Far Away is narrated by Dylan, a 15-year-old British boy, while TATBILB (sheesh, even the abbreviation is a mouthful!) is narrated by Lara Jean, a 16-year-old American girl. I’ve chatted before about how cool I find it to get the perspective of a teen in a book, and how immensely talented I think authors are who are able to capture the teenage voice and experience well. (And yes, I read that sentence back, and yes, I deserve the granny emoji because I am sounding Majorly Old at the moment *insert cry-laughing emoji + gasping emoji + monkey-covering-its-face emoji*)
I love how similar-but-different these two characters are! To be fair, while they’re both going through some major drama (which I will chat about NEXT WEEK, so stick around if you’re a drama llama!), their tragedies are definitely of a different nature to one another and it makes sense for their responses to differ accordingly. But while Dylan bottles up and cracks his knuckles, Lara Jean takes charge, her mind always ticking over with ways she could solve the difficult situations she finds herself in. Lara Jean is a whirlwind of emotion and has no trouble communicating how she feels, while Dylan is often uncomfortable expressing and validating his emotions.
Family plays a huge role in both Dylan and Lara Jean’s lives; Dylan is the older of two boys, while Lara Jean is the middle child of three girls, and this affects their characters, too. While Dylan feels an overwhelming need to protect his younger brother Griff, Lara Jean is unused to the responsibilities that come with being the eldest and has to learn this when her older sister Margot moves away for university. Lara Jean regularly daydreams about the future; Dylan is consumed by his past and often loses himself in memories of his family and his childhood.
Despite all these differences, I found both Dylan and Lara Jean’s characters so human and so likeable. They’re both the type of kids I’d have befriended in high school… or, you know…
Which isn’t to say they’re perfect; they both mess up and do and say things they regret, but they both show growth over the course of their stories and choose to learn from the mistakes they make.
While Lara Jean’s story is a teenage-romance saga (with *gasp!* even more drama sure to follow, because it’s a TRILOGY) and Dylan’s is a heart-wrenching family drama with a twist I neeeever saw coming, I loved both of their characters and the tales they told. Be sure to come by next week when I delve a little deeper into the role of conflict in these two books!