Book: 365 Days
Author: K.E. Payne
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Back in the halcyon days of the Eighties when I was but a wee little lass, keeping a diary was one of the Tiger Beat top ten things for teenage girls to do. We were encouraged to emote upon the trials of growing up, the horrors of our peers, our periods, and our siblings, and [/gasp/] our crushes and deepest desires. Of course, I grew up in a house with no locks and only two doors, so my diary usually consisted of weather reports, game statistics, song lyrics, and blank space.
Yup, lots and lots of white space [/sarcasm/]
In K.E. Payne’s debut novel, 365 Days, we’re introduced to Clemmie Atkins, a thoroughly modern, old-school 16-year old that tells her diary everything. She’s just had a rotten New Year’s Eve, and is suckered into dating a monosyllabic dolt with zits and oily McDeez breath [/queasy/]. Of course, she’s also coming to the conclusion that she might really be a lesbian, because she thinks about J (can’t say her name lest Her Royal Bloody Highness reads the diary) ALL the time. She even gets those little flutters when J smiles at her in the hall. Nope, didn’t get them with Ben the dolt.
But of course, J has a boyfriend [/mad/], and this about kills her. But things start to change as she gets to know the new girl, Hannah Harrison. Hannah is a Goth – sorry, EMO, but she’s really a warm, sweet, happy person. Slowly but surely, Clemmie starts to forget about J, and starts to think about Hannah ALL the time [/flutters/]. Before long, Clemmie and Hannah become lovers, and we follow them through vacations, holidays, first fights, misunderstandings, and sweet, angsty reconciliations.
And then there’s the dream featuring a dog wearing a pair of swimming trunks, doing a Scottish jig while Donald Trump plays the bagpipes [/creepy/].
YA novel or not, 365 Days absofreakinlutely blew me away.
The writing is crisp and clever; the characters are simple yet multi-dimensional; and the storyline is fresh but familiar. Ms. Payne artfully captures the confusion and concerns of a young woman coming to terms with her lesbian libido, as well as life with her family, the inconvenience of schoolwork, morphing dynamics with friends, the torment of waiting for a text, an email, or a call, and the near-consuming fear of losing it all.
Been there, done that, still waiting on a callback from 1984 [/pitiful/].
I will hazard to guess that every one of us that realized she really, really liked girls during her teen years will recognize this story – even the old ones, like me. I’m even willing to bet a substantial number of dead presidents that a few readers will rummage through their crackly old diaries to see if their teenage torment was somehow plagiarized.
For the record, it wasn’t, so put the phone down. Now!
I will also hazard to guess that a lot of teenage girls for many years to come will read this book and rest better knowing that they’re not alone, that this whole crazy experience is wonderfulmanicnatural, and that things will get better. Damn, I wish I had this book when I was Clemmie’s age.
But noooo, you got James Michener’s The Drifters in your Xmas stocking.
I don’t know how she did it, but K.E. Payne delivered a remarkable debut in the simple form of a teenage lesbian’s diary. It’s all the things I hoped it would be, and none of the things I feared. I’m giving this sweet, little gem a 5.0 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale, and encouraging everyone to give it a read – it really is that good [/confident/].