Quick review for a quick read. In all honesty, I get the value of Janet Gurtler’s “How I Lost You” and I’m not going to say that it isn’t a notable book, because I don’t doubt some will like it for not only the way the narrative flows but also the ultimate takeaway points and experiences it expounds upon. However, it’s a narrative I honestly wouldn’t read again and I had a hard time connecting to the story for reasons I’m going to discuss shortly.
“How I Lost You” is a narrative that shows the progressive falling out of two friends: Grace and Kya. Grace is the perspective we follow throughout the novel and the novel starts off showing their relationship very well. The two seem inseparable with playing in paintball matches, asserting their girl power and the strength of their friendship (Buds Before Studs – BBS). But as the narrative moves onward, you quickly realize that this friendship is not as strong in its foundation as you would think. Kya is a very flawed young woman who has suffered greatly in her past. (view spoiler) Grace feels a protective responsibility towards Kya and when Kya goes from one problematic relationship to the next and ends up in a number of drunken stupors, Grace is there to help Kya through the guilt and regret she feels in the aftermath. But Grace also notices that Kya seems to be distancing herself from their mutual friend James and she’s not sure why.
Things change when Grace begins a relationship with Levi. It’s beginning a relationship with him that Grace realizes she’s doesn’t really focus as much on herself as she does her relationship with Kya. And it’s in starting to take a more careful eye to the way that Kya changes that Grace realizes that her friend isn’t someone she knows as well as she thinks she does and despite her attempts to hold on, they’re pulling apart.
I think a few of my biggest problems with this narrative were that I didn’t feel as invested in the characters as much as I was hoping for. I know they’re teenagers, aspiring to go to college, but there’s a mismatch with the maturity and their respective voices that makes it hard for me to align with the narrative despite how serious and mature the subject matters are presented here. The dialogue at times felt too forced and judgmentally handed down to orient to the change in the relationship between Grace and Kya.
And as goodness awful as Kya was to Grace in many points in this narrative (I ended up hating her for the things she did by the end of the story, and I didn’t blame Grace for eventually making the choice to walk away), I honestly felt like Grace’s reactions, instead of just focusing on the things that Kya did that were horrible, were counterintiutive by low-key sexually shaming Kya and handing down some sexual innuendo/humor that made me uncomfortable as I was reading this. I felt like the execution of these issues could’ve been so much better for depth and sensitivity of portrayal than what it came across. After a time, it felt like the drama between the characters came across in a way that, while I believe it could certainly happen in real life, it didn’t connect with me. I think another reason why it didn’t work with me is because despite the fact that this narrative sports a girl-girl positive relationship – it really isn’t at all, because the girls can be horrible in thoughts and actions to each other, sometimes in seemingly unforgivable ways. I raged when Kya basically dismissed a sexual assault attempt on Grace and told her that she wished Grace had a similar experience to understand the pain that she was going through. That was inexcusable and I had a hard time believing that Grace wouldn’t have had a stronger reaction to that.
To give another narrative that I think handled the character emotions and respective issues similar to the flaws that Kya has in this narrative, but in a more mature sense: Amber Smith’s “The Way I Used to Be.” Granted it tells the story of a very flawed young woman who goes through a similar experience to Kya in this tale, and shows her progressive falling in and out of relationships with a more visceral and serious feel than I was able to get out of this narrative.
Overall, I did at least appreciate the intention the narrative was going for, but I couldn’t get behind it and it’s my least liked narrative from Gurtler thus far.
Overall score: 2/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.