Review: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan - Life is too short for 'what could have been'

Thursday, 26 July 2018

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
Released: 1st August 2015
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Short Stories/Essays
Source: Bought
Pages: 208
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Marina Keegan's star was on the rise when she graduated from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker.

Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. As her family, friends and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, The Opposite of Loneliness, went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits. She had struck a chord.

Even though she was just 22 when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty and possibility of her generation. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assemblage of Marina's essays and stories that articulates the universal struggle we all face as we work out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world. 
Of course, there are things we wish we’d done: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my high school self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

The Opposite of Loneliness speaks to our generation of twenty-somethings who are trying to find their place in the world. Published in the wake of a tragedy, it's of course devastating to see a young life full of promise end far too soon. But there is some solace to be found in the fact that Marina's essays and stories live on, a testament to her writing which displayed an understanding of life well beyond her years.

But the thing is, we’re all like that…we have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay. We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.

In reading this collection, I remember thinking to myself how true this is. Marina Keegan's words in the first essay capture exactly how it feels to be on the cusp of 'adult' life; restlessness, uncertainty, and a sense of urgency to do more. Be better. Thrive. As her mentor and professor at Yale Anne Fadiman wrote in the introduction, when deciding what the focus of her work would be, Marina "understood that there were few better subjects than being young and uncertain and starry-eyed and frustrated and hopeful.” Yet aside from the non-fiction, there is so much versatility in her writing, and her short stories also hold some memorable themes. In 'Cold Pastoralism' for example, the opening lines describe the awkward fragility of a relationship when the emotional investment is becoming all too real:

We were in the stage where we couldn’t make serious eye contact for fear of implying we were too invested. We used euphemisms like “I miss you” and “I like you” and smiled every time our noses got too close.

I can imagine that her personality shines in every sentence that she wrote, and where there is heartache in her stories there is also warmth and keen observations into what makes people tick. It is so relatable to come across a writer who was at the same crossroads in their lives, with a perfectionist streak alongside youthful idealism and vitality - though also so aware of their mortality. There's a sad irony in some sections of this book, reading about how the author had already envisioned some elements of her future, talking of the children she would have, and the successful career she was already on the path to attaining. In spite of it all, I think if you read The Opposite of Loneliness you'll find some comfort in its pages, and turn to look at the world with gratitude for the opportunities that will arise if you go to seek them. 


Sometimes I'll pick up a book and know I've found it at just the right time in my life, especially when it contains the words that I need to hear. It's a well-worn aphorism, but life really is too short for 'what if', and 'what I could have done'. The Opposite of Loneliness brought this idea home for me, through the lens of a young writer who, had things been different, I'm sure would have gone to achieve even greater milestones.

We may not know exactly what our lives will look like a few years down the line, but who says we have to have all the answers right now? We are young. And there is hope that eventually, with some faith, resilience, a strong work ethic and positive attitude - we will get to where we want to be.

Waiting on Wednesday: Bookshop Girl

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where the participants tell their readers about an upcoming release they are looking forward to. This week I've picked Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles.

A hilarious tale of female friendship, bookshops and fighting for a cause - perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Louise Rennison.

Bennett's Bookshop has always been a haven for sixteen-year-old Paige Turner. It's a place where she can escape from her sleepy hometown, hang out with her best friend, Holly, and also earn some money. But, like so many bookshops, Bennett's has become a 'casualty of the high street' - it's strapped for cash and going to be torn down.

Paige is determined to save it but mobilising a small town like Greysworth is no mean feat. Time is ticking - but that's not the only problem Paige has.

How is she going to fend off the attractions of beautiful fellow artist, Blaine? And, more importantly, will his anarchist ways make or break her bookshop campaign?

As a bookseller, any plot that's even remotely bookish is bound to catch my eye! I love the sound of this cute and endearing story, which will hopefully go to show just how important bookshops are.

Releasing August 2018 from Bonnier

Discussion: Are We Masters of Our Time?

Friday, 13 July 2018

Days, years and decades march on; the beat of time ticking over the pace of our existence. But for the conspiracy theorists, the dreamers and even the skeptics among us, there is space to wonder whether our futures are truly set on such a linear path. Why do our personal histories seem to repeat themselves from one generation to another? Perhaps more importantly, are we really the master of our fates after all? Both the Netflix series ‘Dark’, and short story ‘Catapult’ by Emily Fridlund explore the topic of time travel to reveal how we cope with recurring patterns in our lives, and whether we will ever fully escape those inexplicable moments of déjà vu.

Produced and originally released in Germany last year, ‘Dark’ delves into the heart of these questions. This is one of the best pieces of foreign drama I've seen (though the gripping Cold War series 'Deutschland 83' is also well worth a watch). Atmospheric in its camera angles, the eerie melodies of the soundtrack and the entire situation its plot represents, I was hooked right from episode one. Set in the alternate periods of 2019, 1986 and 1953, strange goings-on in the small town of Winden reach fever pitch when the bodies of missing children are found with injuries that defy explanation. Its nuclear power plant dominates the landscape alongside the sinuous woods, though the darker energy permeating the storyline emanates from the characters themselves.

Life is a labyrinth. Some people wander around their whole lives looking for a way out, but there’s only one path and it leads you ever deeper. You don’t understand it until you’ve reached the centre. Death is incomprehensible, but you can make peace with it. Till then you should ask yourself each day if you’ve made the right decisions.
– ‘Dark’ Episode 5, ‘Truths’

There is a tempest brewing among both the teens and their parents as the fabric of time itself is stretched beyond its limits. In the first season that has been released so far, the ten episodes are all examples of exquisitely executed cinematography. A foreboding energy is created almost immediately, and when Mikkel goes missing, the son of a police detective working on the case, the drama begins to take its tightly woven form. Using particular songs in key scenes adds another layer of meaning, with the haunting tune of Agnes Obel’s ‘Familiar’ in episode three playing behind contrasting images of the characters in the past and present. From the depths of a murder investigation, to the inner workings of teenage love, the dangerous obsession within a covert affair and visionary realities of time travel, ‘Dark’ tackles moral ambiguity in all its cryptic forms.

All our lives are connected. One fate bound to another. Every one of our deeds is merely a response to a previous deed. Cause and effect. Nothing but an endless dance. Everything is connected to everything else.
– ‘Dark’ Episode 8, ‘So you sow, so you shall reap’

In ‘Catapult’, two teens plan to build a time machine in the midst of their summer break. Katie recalls this time with her boyfriend Noah as they embark on the plan while navigating the treacherous vicissitudes of a burgeoning relationship. Named by the pair as ‘A Hypothesis for Quantum Tunneling’, the couple hold a sense of superiority over others their age for conceiving such a significant idea. Katie comes to form an admiration for Noah with his ‘well organised heart’ and ‘mind full of unusual, ambitious thoughts which he daily cultivated and tended.’ 

Our pattern was fixed when we got to his house. We each ate a bowl of Cheerios in silence, and then we went to his room where we took off our clothes, very careful not to mention – or even affect to notice – that this is what was happening…Time got crinkled up, got sticky.
- 'Catapult'

However, just like the teens in ‘Dark’, there are hidden jealousies to be overcome within their dynamic, and beneath it all a plea ‘to save me from myself.' Whether they will settle for their relationship and follow its shaky blueprint or go their separate ways to find something even better, are decisions left to be made. 

Where this tv series and story intertwine is through the characters attempting to understand topics beyond the realm of comprehension. A quest to analyse the intricacies of time travel eventually morphs into the catalyst for an intrinsic search for meaning. Though often speaking in riddles, at some point these people all ask themselves the same question: What have I become, and when will I find my truth? The answers may be scattered somewhere in the events that time left behind, but the clearest solution to determining their fates is simply to find purpose in the here and now.

My Bookish Top 20 Releasing in 2018 (July - December)

Monday, 9 July 2018

It's halfway through the year, and there have definitely been some amazing releases already! Some of my top picks from the list in my post covering 2018 so far would have to be P.Z. Reizin's endearing debut Happiness for Humans, though The Woman in the Window also stood out as a fascinating thriller with an unreliable narrator. But of course, it's not over yet, so here is the next round of new reads that have caught my eye...


As if the beautiful cover or unique title of The Art of Taxidermy wasn't enough to draw me in, it's a novel by Australian author Sharon Kernot which is completely written in verse - I definitely need it on my shelf! Next up is the latest release from one of my all-time favourite thriller writers Megan Abbott with Give Me Your Hand, a harrowing story about a friendship gone wrong and the dangers of unbridled ambition. My hopes are that it will be just as gripping as You Will Know Me which I finished in a day! JP Delaney shocked me with The Girl Before, and Believe Me promises to be another riveting psychological thriller revolving around an actress, infidelity and a murder investigation. 


I just got my hands on a copy of A Superior Spectre and wow does it sound amazing, blending history and science fiction. Angela Meyer has written for Australian publications before, but this is her debut novel which is set to be a hit. I had the pleasure of meeting Osher Gunsberg at the HarperCollins Roadshow this year to hear him speak about his memoir Back, After the Break which covers some of the darkest parts of his experiences with mental illness. For another non-fiction read, I've chosen The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. This book explores the lives of young American women who worked with the toxic substance during WWI and suffered the consequences, but were determined to fight for justice after their time in those factories. Going along the historical theme, Invitation to a Bonfire is set in the 1930's and inspired by the Nabokov marriage. Although I'm not usually a fan of love triangles, I'm willing to make an exception here and give this story a try.

 I Had Such Friends is #LoveOzYA which looks set to deliver a raw and emotionally driven contemporary novel that tackles a whole range of real issues facing teens. Quicksand has been hugely popular in Sweden and is now being published in Australia, with the promise of a Netflix series to come. I always find it interesting reading books set in countries outside the Australia/US/UK trifecta and it has already won an award for 'Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year'. I only found out recently that there's FINALLY going to be another book in The Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken! They are action-packed YA dystopian at its best, but it's been a few years since I read the first three so I might need a refresher before diving into The Darkest Legacy


The Girl on the Page has been described as a dark comedy which delves into the heart of the literary world itself, and since it's a 'book about books' then I'm already in! I'm left curious about The Sunday Girl, and with a blurb pitching it as "The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones", it'll definitely be interesting to see how the plot turns out. It goes without saying that The Barefoot Investor is the most popular personal finance guide right now, and I have no doubt that Scott Pape's new release The Barefoot Investor for Families: The only kids' money guide you'll ever need will also be a bestseller; it's a smart move to follow up with a call for some brand loyalty after all.


Rekindling family ties, an unexpected romance and going back to nature all feature in K.A. Tucker's latest release The Simple Wild. Jane Harper also has a knack for capturing a sense of place as she's shown in both The Dry and Force of Nature. Her latest suspense novel The Lost Man takes us to outback Queensland, and if it's anything like her other crime masterpieces it is going to be brilliant. Nevermoor was 'Harry Potter meets Alice in Wonderland' in the most magical and uplifting way, and I've been eagerly awaiting the release of the sequel ever since! Wundersmith is the second in what will be an eight-book series, and I can already tell it will be equally as enchanting as the first. It feels like forever since Markus Zusak broke our hearts with The Book Thief, and Bridge of Clay seems set to do the same - but it's a must-read nonetheless. 


In the sequel to the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Crimes of Grindewald will hopefully meet any high expectations. Speaking of which, Rachael Craw's Spark series is AMAZING (and the #SparkArmy lives on) so of course I'll be dropping everything to read The Rift as soon as I get a copy! As always, what book list of mine would be complete without something by Jackie French? The Matilda Saga is up to book eight now with The Last Dingo Summer, and as someone who's been following it from the beginning all those years ago, I can't wait to revisit familiar characters and discover new ones along the way. 

Over to you - what books are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?

{Blog Tour} Review: Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Save the Date by Morgan Matson
Released: 1st July 2018
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 300
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Charlie Grant tries to keep her life as normal as possible. Hanging out with her best friend, pining for Jesse Foster - who she’s loved since she was twelve - and generally flying under the radar as much as she can.

But sometimes normal is just another word for stuck, and this weekend that's all going to change. Not only will everyone be back home for her sister’s wedding, but she’s also juggling: - a rented dog that just won't stop howling - an unexpectedly hot wedding-coordinator’s nephew - her favourite brother bringing home his HORRIBLE new girlfriend - fear that her parents’ marriage is falling apart - and the return to town of the boy she’s loved practically all her life…

Over the course of four days Charlie will learn there's so much more to each member of her family than she imagined, even herself, and that maybe letting go of the things she's been holding on tightest to can help her find what really keeps them together.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

If there's one thing to know about Morgan Matson's books, it's that they're almost guaranteed to leave you grinning. In Save The Date, she's delivered another fun and endearing YA contemporary novel that takes the melodrama of wedding planning in its stride, with hectic family dynamics and the thrill of a crush in between. This is the perfect read for something light that still has a worthwhile message at its core about reacting to unanticipated situations and learning more about yourself as you look towards the possibilities in the future.

The pacing of the book manages to fit quite a lot into the course of four days surrounding Charlie's sister's wedding. With the original wedding planner no longer an option just a day out from the actual event, almost everything can go wrong. Add into that the big family dramas and there is a storyline that reads like movies with the same themes, except here there's even more of a cute twist. Morgan Matson always develops all her characters well, so it was definitely enjoyable to read about the Grant's and how they fit into the picture - the list of the wedding party at the beginning helped! This novel is one filled with so much energy, adorable moments and some heartfelt lessons too.


If you're a fan of Morgan Matson's other brilliant releases like The Unexpected Everything or Since You've Been Gone, you will absolutely adore Save The Date! For a fun and well-developed story with heart, this book ticks all the boxes. 

Morgan Matson is a New York Times bestselling author. She received her MFA in writing for children from the New School and was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start author for her first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, which was also recognized as an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. Her second book, Second Chance Summer, won the California State Book Award. She lives in Los Angeles.

Check out the rest of the blog tour here!