Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor
While I'm so grateful to have received this book from the publisher, I'm sad to say it wasn't for me. I can see how this book would be a favorite for younger (snarky?) readers, and the writing was decent, but I just couldn't stomach the YA cliches, bad attitudes/angst, pretentiousness, and other frustrating elements.
I really REALLY wanted to love this book, and I do think fans of John Green or "witty" romance will potentially enjoy this book. I did like, for the most part, how the author portrayed depression and how it can take many shapes in our lives and in the lives of people we love. The letter at the very end of the book was probably my favorite part of the novel for this reason; the main character defines depression for herself and likens the experience to walking a tightrope. If the whole book had been written with this level of vulnerability and humble insight, I may have enjoyed it more.
The main reason I disliked this book was because the main character, Reggie, is one of the most frustrating characters, and not in a Holden Caulfield/endearing kind of way. She hates everything and everyone (and says it multiple times; the author doesn't even show us this. She tells us). She is mean to everyone she comes in contact with (without reason), which somehow spurs on the romance?
Which leads me to the boy, "Snake." I really didn't like the romance. Snake continues to pursue her even though she tells him she hates him and insults him pretty much every time she sees him. I also felt that Snake was way too pushy about their relationship. He literally grabs her at one point and she asks him to let her go, and he doesn't? I guess it was supposed to be a cute, quirky part of their relationship, their banter and "I don't give a shit" attitudes about the "uselessness of our condition," but to be honest, it didn't come across on the page for me. Maybe it did for other readers, and again, maybe high school readers will feel differently about this book. I just personally didn't find it funny or endearing, and I didn't connect with the characters at all. I wanted to stop reading, but a few reviewers mentioned that it got better as the book went on.
At one point, Snake literally told Reggie, "You were wrecked before you met me . . . it suits you though." Which, in my opinion, felt a bit off. I wouldn't say it's romanticizing mental illness in any way, but I definitely got the sense that Snake and Reggie held this superior attitude because of their illness. I don't know. Maybe I'm hyper sensitive to it, but I didn't enjoy this book.
I agree with other reviewers that I think people will like or maybe even love this book, and I'm sure people will be able to relate to it, so it isn't really a one star for me. I also think the author is a talented writer; the characters just weren't for me.