Actually 4.5 stars
And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky is a prime example of great contemporary Y.A. literature. Keek has a true, authentic voice, which I enjoyed immensely. I’m actually struggling right now trying to find the words to write this review because I loved this book that much.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if And Then Things Fall Apart was a book I wanted to read when I first heard about it. I hadn’t read that many reviews, and I’ve never finished reading The Bell Jar, so I didn’t know if it was a book for me. When I was at NCTE, Arlaina Tibensky was signing, so I figured I’d buy a copy and get it signed for my classroom. Since then it’s been sitting on my shelf. Recently I bought a copy of Saving June by Hannah Harrington for my classroom, another book I haven’t read, and one of my freshmen read it. When she finished she told me she loved it and needed another book like Saving June. Since I haven’t read that one yet, I was at a loss, so I consulted Twitter. Thanks to Kelly at Stacked, I had a couple book recommendations for my student which included And Then Things Fall Apart. I didn’t have that in my classroom at the moment, so I gave my student the other recommend book and decided to read And Then Things Fall Apart. I know this is a long-winded story, but I’m SO GLAD I read it! Based on what my student said about Saving June and then Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (which was the other read alike), I’m almost positive she’ll love And Then Things Fall Apart.
Anyway, back to why I loved this debut. I need to bring up Keek. She’s sick in bed with the chicken pox during summer vacation. Chicken pox become worse with age, so Keek is really suffering. To make matters worse, her mom is out of state, and her parents are about to get divorced, so she’s trapped at her Grandma’s house without any technology to interact with the outside world. But she does have a typewriter and her worn-with-love copy of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. To give herself something to do, she decides to start writing. Arlaina Tibensky’s novel is essentially Keek’s book. She has a wonderful sense of humor that’s made up of mostly snark and wit. Her voice is authentic, so it’s easy to picture Keek. There isn’t much dialogue because Keek is isolated for the most part, but also because she’s a character that really lives in her head. The lack of dialogue didn’t bother me at all, and it wasn’t something that I noticed until I saw some reviews on Goodreads after finishing. Keek, who’s real name is Karina, is very mature for her age in the way that she thinks. But on the other hand, she’ll sometimes act immature when it comes to her boyfriend Matt and her reactions to her parents. Teens that view themselves as being more mature than their peers will really identify with Keek.
While Keek is mature and a deep thinker, she’s inexperienced with boys, which adds to her insecurity with Matt. When she’s confronted with moving forward sexually with Matt, she often consults The Bell Jar for advice. Her virginity is always on her mind, as is Matt. At times Matt drives her crazy and she can’t stand him. Other times she’s thinking about times when she was madly in love with him and her hormones were driving her actions. Keek’s really conflicted; she doesn’t know if her feelings are real and why she’s so scared to have sex with Matt. Some readers might be put off by Keek’s thoughts about sex and her virginity; they might see it as being too mature for some readers. I read Keek’s memories of Matt and her thoughts about her virginity as very real and what many teens probably go through and think about.
The only fault I found with And Then Things Fell Apart, is that sometimes Keek’s voice and thoughts felt off character. She started to sound more like an adult, or like I was reading a non-YA novel. I normally wouldn’t say this is a bad thing, but Keek at times was too smart for her age.
Overall, if you want to read a fantastic example of contemporary Y.A., then I can’t recommend And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky enough. It’s humorous, honest, and just all-around great. I can’t wait to read more books written by Arlaina Tibensky.
P.S. If you’re currently on a budget, you’ll be happy to hear that this was released in paperback.