Nineteen by Arly Carmack
Nineteen is a coming of age novel that follows hopeless romantic Cameron Metzger as he navigates his post-adolescent life. In first person POV, Cameron chronicles is experiences with his exes, struggles with his family, and feelings of aimlessness as he's about to turn twenty.
At the start of the book, Cameron admits doesn't feel like a true member of the family. He has two older siblings, Laura and Doug, who are both almost a decade older than him. He feels distant from them in ways he can't quite explain. He carries the weight of the constant perceived disappointment from his parents. Cameron's relationship with is dad is tense because you know, he's doing the dad stuff like constantly asking him what his next move is and to move of that damn car out of the garage already.
And he doesn't know what his next move is. Cameron's trapped in the in between—he doesn't feel confident about going to college or assured of working at a grocery store forever. He wants to make a move but wants to make the right choice.
Cameron's also haunted by memories of his exes and bears the pain of heartbreak as he's on the cusp of falling in love again. Even though his relationships with his past loves ultimately wound him in some way, he loves them fully. In true romantic fashion, I think in some ways he always will. Even though he tries to deny himself love, he somehow always finds it.
As we follow him through his journey, Cameron unveils a secret about himself that answers a number of questions about his life, but this secret threatens to unravel not only his world, but the lives of everyone closest to him. With this knowledge, he struggles with how to move forward.
With that being said, here's what I think:
There's a lot to love about this book.
First, if you want to learn about crafting character relationships and exploring meaningful dynamics, read this book. Each relationship feels real and distinct from one another. You can cut the tension between Cameron and his dad with a knife and taste the constant separation he feels between himself and his parents. You can feel the loose camaraderie Cameron has with his brother and yearn with him for closeness with his sister. You easily could beg for a spin-off novel of Cameron and his friend John Lind being bros. Your heart breaks again and again as he remembers his exes.
No character feels one dimensional, even the minor ones. I feel like I've met these people before, or even know them currently. Hell, I've even been Cameron for a scene or two. I understand how it feels to compare your perceived failures to the successes of your siblings. I resonate with the regret of missed opportunities and bad decisions. I get the all too real fears of falling in love again while struggling with the anxieties surrounding my own baggage—but I know how cathartic it feels to accept someone wholly and be accepted as I am.
This book also shows the very relatable experience of folks coming and going in life. Goodbye doesn't mean someone truly leaves—people are like boomerangs or revolving doors, really. When you think you've seen the last of a character (again, no matter how minor), they reappear in such organic ways. It reminds me every person in our lives stays connected to us, even long after the relationship ends and the credits roll.
This novel demonstrates how we're told that our pasts shouldn't define us, but still they haunt us. Take his friend John Lind for instance, who earns the scorn of his parents after he gets expelled from a prestigious university and struggles to make things right. Or his friend Lisa, who relives harrowing memories of a former husband. Or Stephanie who wonders what could have been.
Finally, it's important to note that for someone who has been deeply wounded in loving someone else, he still continues to see love everywhere—and that's a beautiful thing. Cameron brings himself to love each girl he's dated despite his initial reservations. He continues to fall in love even though he tells himself not to, and he selflessly wants love for other people.
If you couldn't guess this already, I'd totally recommend Nineteen.
See for yourself-- pick up your copy at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
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Photo credit: Arly Carmack