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Review: These Are the Moments by Jenny Bravo

I just finished reading These Are the Moments and I knew I should put my thoughts down sooner rather than later, as if I wait, I may just decide not to write a review at all. In a nutshell, I feel rather ambivalent about this book. It was good in parts, in that I could relate to the idea of loving someone so much and that love eventually morphing into something not-so-loving-and-more-something-else, but overall, the book became rather boring and the dynamics between the various characters just weren't quite there, making it hard to fully relate to, and therefore become invested in, the story arch. I'll stop my critique here and try to explain myself a little better. These Are the Moments is written in alternating chapters: a "Then" and a "Now." The readers follows the relationship between Wendy and Simon, but from Wendy's POV, with "Then" starting when they first met at a church camp of sorts, and following them through 10 years of relational ups and downs, and the "Now" chapters set in present day, when the two are thrown together, yet again, for the wedding of their mutual best friends. Along for the ride in some form or fashion are Wendy's best friends, Reese and Vivian (the bride-to-be) and Owen, Simon's best friend, as well as Wendy's family. What I thought was done well and what I enjoyed was the depiction of Wendy's family. Too often in YA literature, I feel like we see sad family situations, where either the parents are divorced or one (or both) are dead. I realize that these are very real situations, but it was refreshing to see a healthy family unit, albeit Wendy's family is not without issues. I also enjoyed the banter between Wendy, Reese, and Vivian. It was great to see a fairly realistic depiction of female friendship, especially one that has survived the journey of high school, college, and now, marriage. I say "fairly realistic" because, even though these girls have been friends for 10 years, they never really hold each other accountable for their actions, and exist more in their own orbit, each circling the other, but never really aligning. Wendy's relationship with Simon becomes emotionally and spiritually toxic, yet her friends are a-okay with talking around it; Reese clearly has a drinking problem and makes poor romantic choices, but neither of her friends makes a real effort to address the issue; Vivian is selfish and rather thoughtless, but her behavior is never addressed until the last quarter of the book. As someone who has few close female friends, perhaps this is how female friendships really do work? Perhaps I didn't like this depiction because it doesn't conform to my idealistic desires of how a friendship could and should be? You'll have to judge for yourself, but being idealistic, I'd like to think this is not how real friends treat each other. I also liked the relationship between Wendy and Claudia, her little sister. Claudia and Wendy are far apart enough in age that Claudia is too-cool and Wendy is not-cool, but they demonstrate love and concern for each other consistently, especially when one of them is dealing with an emotional upheaval. Isn't that when you need your family the most? However, I was bothered by how often Claudia, who is underage, drank, and by how casually Wendy, being the older sister, handled it. Wendy even went with Claudia to a high school party, where they played beer pong together. Now, I realize these things do happen, and I'm all for realistic depictions of life in literature, but I guess this wasn't relate-able to me, as my older brothers would never have let me drink under-age, nor would they have happily attended a wild party with me just because I was going through a tough time. Eventually, Claudia gets ahold of herself, but I never really felt for her issues because I just didn't know enough about them. Moving on to the relationship between Wendy and Simon, which is the crux of this book... I don't get it. I think that the toxic cyclicity of their relationship was certainly relate-able, as I was in a relationship like that, but I could tell you how, at the beginning, things were pretty incredible, and that's what kept me going during the rough years. However, with Wendy and Simon, we learn almost right off the bat when they first start talking in their early teens, that Simon has "done things" he wishes he could be forgiven for and that he wants to change, but we never discover what those things are. What, exactly, attracted Wendy to Simon and kept her attracted all those years? That's the problem I had in relating to their relationship, and therefore, the entire story. Simon had a reputation as a flirt, he flitted in and out of Wendy's life as he saw fit, they fought all the time, he asked for commitment from her and then shied away, and she did the same thing - even into their twenties. Clearly, they were both emotionally immature, but there had to have been something else that happened to explain their constant shifting to and from (mostly from) each other. Interestingly enough, I read an article today in the NY Times (link here) that strongly corresponds with what I feel is a major point in this book:

I think my generation is venturing into some seriously uncharted waters, because while we’re hesitant to label relationships, we do participate in some deviation of them. But by not calling someone, say, “my boyfriend,” he actually becomes something else, something indefinable. And what we have together becomes intangible. And if it’s intangible it can never end because officially there’s nothing to end. And if it never ends, there’s no real closure, no opportunity to move on. Instead, we spend our emotional energy on someone we’ve built up and convinced ourselves we need. We fixate on a person who may not be right for us simply because he never wronged us. Because without a label, he never really had the chance.

Ultimately, in my opinion, what These Are the Moments suffers from is too much information about unimportant things, and not enough information about the important things. The book ended on an open note, and one that left me feeling strongly, and strangely, unsatisfied. Like, what was the point? There were times when I thought Wendy almost "got it"; that she realized she was making someone a priority who had simply made her an option, and that there was a better life waiting for her than the one she was living, but she just didn't quite hit the mark. If I'm honest, maybe I feel so strongly about Wendy and about this book because I could have been her, and that could have been my life - had I not made different (see: better) decisions. Dear reader, this is one you'll have to judge for yourself. Each book is a personal journey, and this may just be a story you can relate to and find meaning in. For this reader, this book disappointed.

Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this publication from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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