I received a copy from Edelweiss.
This book pretty much had me at two besties who binge watch old X Files reruns. As I am a massive X Files addict. And still binge-watch the series myself. The in-depth X Files references that are a huge bulk of the plot are worth five stars alone.
However, there are many other reasons for why this is one the best books I have read this year. The basic theme of the novel is there is no such thing as "normal" when you are 17/18 and just starting out in life. Its a journey of self discovery for two very different characters who in spite of being best friends and sharing a love of sci-fi stuff, realise they need to find their own paths in life.
Told in first person, first from Rory's point of view. He's the weird fat kid, lives with a difficult home life - alcoholic mom, and mom's stream of unsteady boyfriends. He's also gay and seems to be afraid to tell anyone. He's also at the start of the novel in a relationship which his much older boss, a divorced father of two who runs the small town's book shop/coffee shop. They sneak around a lot for obvious reasons. Rory's best friend is Lula, who shares his obsessive love of the X Files, they watch and talk about the episodes, their thoughts on plots, conspiracy theories and chat and stuff on the fan forums. The novel is set several years in the past, just before the second X Files movie comes out.
Rory has a delightfully snarky tone, he's enigmatic and charming (even though he doesn't seem to think so) and he's very worried about being caught with his boss, Andy. He wants more out of the relationship, but he doesn't seem to be getting it. He's afraid of telling Lula, even though she tells him everything. He also randomly starts being friendly with the school quarterback, Seth. Who convinces him with his stocky build he'd be great for the team. Which for some reason Lula seems to think is absurd. She comes off in Rory's view points as kind of judgemental.
When Lula catches him with Andy and gives him a piece of her mind for not trusting her enough with the truth, things rapidly fall apart. Lula disappears and Rory starts to fall apart without her. No one knows if she has run away or been kidnapped. But as Rory struggles to understand what happened with Lula and why she ran off and won't answer his emails or anything, he does start to realise that he can have his own life without needing to run everything by her. He learns there's plenty of stuff she has never told him either.
The second half off the novel tells the story from Lula's view point. Which I was quite pleased about. As interesting as Rory's point of view was, when the novel turned to Lula's unexpected disappearance I kept thinking it would be nice to see it from Lula's point of view, or at least get some chapters from her explaining why she did what she did.
Initially I liked Lula's brassiness, her tone of voice (sci-fi and Lord of the Rings obsessions which I totally understand) but in the second half of the novel I absolutely fell in love with her. Lula had plenty of reason it turns out, to run away. She has her own drama at home. She lives with her somewhat strict grandparents, raised by them as her mother left when she was very young and had has no idea who her father is. She has a backpack of stuff left by her mother, some books and stuff she reads over and over. All she knows about her mother is mom wanted to be an actress and left for New York. Lula seems to have no idea what she wants to do with her life. She's never dated, though she thinks she might be interested in Rory, and pretty much freaks when she catches him with Andy. Its not the fact Rory's gay, its that Andy is so much older. And he didn't trust her enough to tell her about him. At some point she thought he might like her. Her thoughts on the subject are disjointed. She does some pretty stupid things when she finds out.
All which coalesce into her running away. Lula wants to find some sort of direction in her life but has no idea how. Her struggles as she finds her answers, are deeply moving. And Lula is a much more likeable character when the story is told from her point of view and things are explained. When Lula comes home, there are massive consequences for her actions. The friendship with Rory takes an unexpected turn.
Lula is forced to deal with her mistakes. All the while still trying to figure out among other things, her sexuality. She just doesn't know. Is she straight, gay or bisexual? She finally comes to the conclusion that it doesn't matter if she doesn't know right now. She's 18, she's got her whole life ahead of her.
There are some wonderful side characters who help her figure this out. A cool teacher, her mother's husband Walter, (Lula's mom turns out to be kind of a bitch but at least there is some sort of closure there, the man she marries though was a brilliant character) and Seth the quarterback who started off being Rory's friend turns up again and turns out to be pretty awesome and nothing like the jock quarterback you wouldm expect in a YA novel.
While nothing turned out the way you would maybe expect it to, even though things between Rory and Lula have their ups and down, they always manage to reconnect over their love of the X Files. This was something that was really fun and nice to see they still had something in common.
I need a sequel set in modern day times where Lula and Rory run into each other and connect again over the new upcoming X Files revival series.
It was an emotional roller coaster with deeply fleshed out characters a brilliant storyline. I loved this one from start to finish.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Three Rooms Press for approving my request to view the title.