Saturday, August 17, 2013

Living Backwards by Tracy Sweeney: Review


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Genre – Chick Lit
Rating – PG13
Twenty-nine-year-old Jillian Cross refuses to believe that a pair of skinny jeans has led to her untimely demise. Life just isn’t that cruel. But when an overly-enthusiastic attempt at squeezing herself into them leads her to fall and lose consciousness, she is faced with just that possibility. When she awakens with both a bruised ego and a bump on her head, she’s not in her tiny apartment but her childhood bedroom circa 1999-the spring of her senior year in high school. Jillian knows that time travel isn’t logical.
But then again, neither was her decision to wear skinny jeans. As she attempts to navigate her way through the halls of Reynolds High, walking the same path and making the same choices she made years before, she knows that any change she makes can have a catastrophic effect on her future. But when she strikes up an unexpected friendship with motorcycle-riding, cigarette-smoking Luke Chambers, can she pretend to be the same shy girl she once was? At least she has her pink sparkly flask to take the edge off. One little change won’t hurt, right?


This is a somewhat long book, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was almost effortlessly pulled into Jillian’s story quickly.   When 29 year-old Jillian suffers a nasty fall after trying to shimmy into a pair of skinny jeans, she awakens ten years earlier one month before high school graduation.  Always shy and introverted in high school, this time a more confident adult Jillian has a chance for a do-over.  With snappy, snarky banter and her trusty sparkly, pink flask that incidentally travelled back in time with her Jillian attempts to change just a few little things.   The results vary and sometimes are laugh out loud funny.  Depending on liquid courage from Joan, her flask, Jillian meets bad boy Luke behind the gym where they are both sneaking smokes.  Luke’s history is sad, and he is basically just putting in time until graduation when he can escape the small-town confines and make a fresh start for himself.  Fate seems to have other ideas in mind for both Jillian and Luke.  The POV in the book switches back and forth between Jillian and Luke.
I personally was uncomfortable with the alcoholic consumption by minors – especially in the first half of the book.  I tried to bury the feeling of wrongness in the back of my mind because I thought the story overall was so well-told and interesting.  I was not totally successful, but perhaps that has more to do with the generation gap between me and most of the characters in this book.  I thought Jillian’s habit of naming inanimate objects was quirky and endeared her to me all the more because I once had a friend who did that with practically everything she owned.  I guess it triggered additional fond memories. Another thing I really enjoyed was the pop culture references from the 90’s; it is really amazing how much has changed.  Facebook is at the forefront, influencing so much of our social selves.
For me, the story bogged down a little bit in the second half. Darker, more intense, with less humor, Jillian is decidedly morose, until her friends step in with some innovative intervention methods.  I really wanted this part to move along faster because the gloom felt oppressive.  That said, the author did an exemplary job of realistically portraying how some decisions can have significant emotional impacts upon our life journey.  The big reason this novel resonated so well with me, despite the generation gap, is because I fully embraced the idea that sometimes we all need a second chance, and I thought the time travel aspect was perfectly executed.
This book was given to me by the author in exchange for my honest review.
Reviewed by Laurie-J
Tracy Sweeney graduated with a degree in Management and Finance but prefers writing ridiculous things to crunching ridiculous numbers. She lives north of Boston, Massachusetts with her two young boys. Her short stories have appeared in Literary Juice, Solecisms and Slice of Life Magazines. She is currently working on her second novel which will be equally as ridiculous.
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1 comment:

Tracy Sweeney said...

Thanks, Laurie! So glad you enjoyed it! :)