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It Sounded Better in My Head

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From debut author Nina Kenwood comes a tender, funny, and compulsively readable novel about first love and its confusions, and all of the awkwardness of teen romance.

When her parents announce their impending divorce, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting, or at least mildly upset. Then Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, hook up, leaving her feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward. She’d always imagined she would end up with Zach one day―in the version of her life that played out like a TV show, with just the right amount of banter, pining, and meaningful looks. Now everything has changed, and nothing is quite making sense. Until an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

It Sounded Better in My Head is a compulsively readable love letter to teenage romance in all of its awkward glory, perfect for fans To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Emergency Contact.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published August 6, 2019

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About the author

Nina Kenwood

2 books237 followers
Nina Kenwood is a writer living in Melbourne. It Sounded Better in My Head is her first novel.

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5 stars
1,710 (22%)
4 stars
2,956 (38%)
3 stars
2,228 (29%)
2 stars
569 (7%)
1 star
146 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,489 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,069 reviews38.2k followers
December 25, 2021
This book is better than I expected. It also sounded so good in my head. I went back and forth between four and five stars and guess what my happy new year spirits controlled my finger and clicked five shiny debut stars.

I didn’t see myself like a book about puberty problems, hormonal changes, acne scars (they actually leave both mental and physical scars on human bodies. I’m talking about 13 year old, curly, chubby, tomboy version of myself whose face covered with tons of them. Yikes!) and being at a vulnerable state because of your dysfunctional family issues and unbearable heaviness to take your first steps to the adulthood.

Yes, it sounds like memory trip to torturous page of your own life. And of course the author didn’t draw a lovely picture and wrote hearts and flowers novel about that term and Natalie’s problems when she’s welcomed to her adulthood. Her parents are getting divorced and they’re separated for a long time but they kept lying to her. Her two best friends are still dating, making big future plans. And she has no idea what she’s going to do with her future. She still feels like third wheel when she hangs out with her two besties. She is smart but she also suffers from low self-esteem because of the scars on her body.

She doesn’t like to drink. She doesn’t like partying. She doesn’t know how to start a conversation when she is out of her inner circle and surrounded by new people. So yes, she is socially weird, shy and insecure. And you may guess that she’s never been kissed and had a romantic relationship.
But surprise, surprise! She’s invited to a party by his best friend Zach’s brother Alex and his friend Owen. She tells herself she likes Owen a little. But at the end of night, she realizes she starts to form a crush on her best friend’s brother: Alex.

They’re so opposite of each other. Alex likes partying, playing football, attending social gatherings, having lots of friends, working at a pub and he is more experienced about the relationship. He’s not some kind of man-whore or bad boy but he has not good reputation when it comes to the girlfriends.

But don’t worry! This book is not sweet, swoony romance. It has realistic, a little bit harsh but objective approach to the young adults’ worlds. Their fears, future plans, their problematic minds, reactions, the way of looking at the outside world, relations are told genuinely. I loved all those characters: their challenges, their questioning minds and their way of embracing the life.

It was entertaining to hide in Natalie’s head and read her inner monologues which are sarcastic, smart, genuine and unique. And the part she was discussing with Alex to have sex with him made me laugh so much. It’s like watching an entertaining, original independent young adult movie. ( It reminded me of Booksmart a little bit.)

Overall: I enjoyed writing which kept my attention alive and ending of the book made me wish I hope the author writes a sequel because I love those characters and I wanted to know more about their future stories.

Guess what! I think I had another good read at the end of the year and for getting some inspiration I have to get my plane tickets ASAP to visit Australia.

Profile Image for emma.
1,784 reviews42.9k followers
April 4, 2022
Please do not ask me to describe this book.

I am unable to tell you any sort of “plot.” I cannot give you an “idea” of the “narrative.” If you request any sort of summary or synopsis of what goes down in these pages, my brain will explode and none of us will win.

But I can tell you it’s a delight.

Nothing really happens in this at all. There’s no story. There’s very little character development. The romance kind of falls together. Friends bicker but not in any real way.

Overall if you confidently told me this was under 90 pages long I’d be like “Oh! That makes more sense.”

And yet I thought this was a blast.

The characters are lovely! Sure, maybe they all fall between the ages of 18 and 20, but it’s like you know what, fine, no development needs to happen here, you guys are great the way you are. Just be adolescent forever. See if I care!!!

(Feeling like the degree to which I earnestly like this book is coming off as sarcastic, which...not an awesome impression I’m giving here on the ol’ internet.)

I also read a good amount of rom-coms, but I feel like the “com” in that term has a lot more to do with “does not include an unrelenting tide of trauma/death/angst that’s not the good kind of angst where you’re like ‘oh my god just kiss already,’” rather than actual humor.

But this one was truly funny! And charming! Hurray.

There were also so many lovely little details in this book that media rarely talks about, like really serious acne. Or low self-esteem. Or being from Australia.

This was just so refreshing.

Bottom line: I want to read a million more books by this author. Or at least three, immediately.

currently-reading updates

this title = me every time i speak
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
603 reviews472 followers
August 14, 2021
This book was AH-MAZING!!

I mean it, everything about it was just right! Almost perfect.
From the writing style to the story itself, and it's characters.

I can't believe this is a debut novel!
Sign me up for next Nina Kentwood's novels, because I want to read all of them!
Her writing style is amazing, and from her acknowledgments where she thanked to authors who's books she read in her lifetime, is obvious she reads and loves books a lot.

The story was great. Entertaining and realistic, and just what I craved at time.
I was hungry for good ya contemporary and It Sounded Better in my Head is just what I needed.

The characters were likeable and they felt real.
Even though I am older then Natalie, I could relate to her.
I also don't like to be seen (but it has nothing to do with my look) and I feel like my mind works similar to hers. However, she did go on my nerves sometimes.
With lifelike friends and good family dynamics, plus "not so perfect for each other" love interesting, this book has the best cast.

I love how believable It Sounded Better in my Head turned out to be, and the was it wrapped up.

I know I said it many times this year, but I think this is my favourite read of 2020.

Because I loved it so much, I now want to read as many ya contemporaries as I can.

I recommend this novel to everyone who's looking for something quick, easy, and entertaining.

Read this and more reviews on my blog https://bookdustmagic.com
Profile Image for Danielle.
779 reviews366 followers
November 6, 2020
Ya’ll know I’m a sucker for YA books with cutesy covers. While I’d call them my guilty pleasure, I honestly never have high hopes that they’ll be very good. 🙄 I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It had the flirty crush, first kiss feel- but it also tackled the complexity that is being a teen girl who is very insecure with her body. 🙋🏼‍♀️ I appreciated the detail that went into her daily thoughts, it brought a relatable real ness to the story. Every girl struggles with body insecurities in her own way. Life is not always rainbows and sunshine. ❤️📚
Profile Image for sarah.
377 reviews397 followers
May 2, 2020
ok, I know it is only may but I hereby award this book with the following:
➽ most surprising read of 2020
➽ most underrated read of 2020
➽ most relatable read of 2020
➽ best debut of 2020
one of the best books of 2020

YA contemporary is a genre I really enjoy, but rarely love if that makes sense. I have a really fun time reading them, but very few of them reach 5 stars and even less of those make it to the enigmatic list of All Time Favourites. But now I had better reconsider my life, because this book was stunning and without a doubt deserves a place.

We follow Natalie, just a regular teenager trying to navigate the difficult place of limbo between finishing high school and beginning university, unknowing of what the future holds for her. Suddenly out of the blue, her parents announce their separation and Natalie's life is thrust upside down.

While the general plot of this book may not seem like anything new or special, it was the little moments in between that made me love it so much. The quiet moments, the inner thoughts, the quippy remarks that just popped up in her head.

When I say this book was 'relatable', I mean 'what the hell, did the author get these lines straight out of my head?' Because that is truly the only plausible option here. The similarities between me and Natalie bordered on uncanny at times. I'm not sure if it is just the universal experience of being a teenager, heightened by us both being Australian- but it was like an intense feeling of deja vu.

One of my favourite favourite things about this book was the discussion of body image, and specifically acne. Considering acne is something the majority of teenagers go through, there is a significant lack of discussion of it in young adult titles. Or if there is mention of acne, it will be about one annoying zit that pops up the day before a party. Previously, no book I had ever read had actually talked about the emotional or physical scarring that can come from having acne in a world that pretends it doesn't exist.

"The nose I can live with. Big noses are artistic. But the world has assured me only villains and losers have acne"

in one simple sentence, entire thought spirals I have gone down have been summed up. The less savoury thoughts are not ignored either, but people can be a little selfish, melodramatic and self-absorbed, and that just adds to the reality. Natalie may not be the most likeable protagonist for everyone, but Nina Kenwood did an amazing job at shaping her personality to the point where she feels tangible, like someone you know.

Reading this book was such an immensely personal experience for me that it is hard to consider this book objectively. If I look at this from a purely critical point of view, I can acknowledge that it isn't necessarily the most spectacular work of literature ever created. But if I rated this book any less than 5 stars, it would be ignoring the emotions the story evoked in me and the startling feeling of finally being seen.

Thank you to Text Publishing and Netgalley for this e-copy!
Profile Image for Berit Talks Books.
1,999 reviews15.7k followers
April 22, 2020
Nina Kenwood’s debut is an absolute gem! Charming and authentic, an entertaining story about first love, figuring out what you want to do with your life, and who you really are. Natalie is an introverted, awkward, smart, and sassy 18-year-old who has just graduated from high school and is about to find out where her future is headed. Natalie has no idea what she really wants to do in the future and this concerns her. Not only that she is extremely self-conscious most of that stemming from having struggled with terrible acne for most of her teens.

This book will bring you back to your teenage years and your own first love. It is so witty and hilarious, Natalie‘s inner monologues are priceless. There was the most awkward,real, hilarious ever party and almost sex scene in this book, I was laughing and cringing so hard. Natalie it’s such an endearing and relatable character that you will definitely get behind. I loved her friendships with her Besties Lucy and Zach, and totally understood the third wheel struggle. The romance was so innocent, sweet, awkward, and adorable. This is a can’t miss for all teens and anyone who has ever been a teen. What a dazzling debut, looking forward to what’s next from Miss Kenwood.

This book in emojis: 🇦🇺 🤳🏼 🛀🏼 🏖 💅🏻

*** Big thank you to Flatiron Books for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
Profile Image for NZLisaM.
413 reviews344 followers
March 11, 2020
**The US Edition is now available to request on #Netgalley**

YA coming-of-age, modern-day, contemporary romance that ticks every box.

Debut Australian author, Nina Kenwood’s moving portrayal of a shy, sheltered teenager on the cusp of adulthood is honest, frank, insightful, inspirational, and charming, with some hilarious moments. Three pages in and I was completely devoted to this captivating book, and Natalie's relatable voice instantly transported me right back to the awkwardness and experiences of my own teen years.

Natalie's life is in limbo.

It's her summer after High School, and she's not sure what her future holds.

Exam results are in, but Natalie won't know which university she's been accepted into until the New Year.

Her two best friends – Zach and Lucy – have recently fallen in love with one another, and she's feeling like a third wheel.

Then, on Christmas Day, out of the blue, her parents announce they are separating.

Where does that leave Natalie?

But a chance invitation to a party changes everything.

Things are looking up.

It's a time of new and exciting, transition and uncertainty, as Natalie tries to make sense of who she is and where she fits, as she is forced to let go of what is familiar and comfortable, and tentatively explore the unknown. Natalie is more naive and introverted than your average 18 year old. Since puberty she has been afflicted with severe, deliberating acne resulting in body image issues, social anxiety, and depression, and spent much of her high school years hiding away from the world in the sanctity of her house. Acne is a delicate topic, one most of us (myself included) have felt self-conscious about at some point, yet this is the first YA novel I've ever read to feature a protagonist with bad skin, and focus on it so openly. Even though at the start of this novel Natalie's acne is now minimised by medication, she still bears the physical and emotional scars, and has traumatic flashbacks.

‘Winter is my season. Long coats, boots, big jumpers, puffer vests, beanies, giant scarves, jackets with hoods. These are safety blankets for anyone who is uncomfortable in their skin.’

I completely embraced Natalie's journey as she gradually began to accept and open herself up to others, and realise that she is not the only person with insecurities and problems. Her relationships with her parents, her two besties, and her romantic interest (whose identity I won't spoil) are realistic, touching, and sweet. Oh, and a special shout-out to Zach's wonderful, supportive family - they're adorable.

At 288 pages it's a quick read, so not too daunting if your teenager isn't a voracious reader. The perfect book for parents/caregivers to read, and discuss, with their daughters and sons. Content rating – some sexual content, alcohol abuse, a couple of instances of swearing, but nothing above pg. If you don't fall in love with It Sounded Better in My Head, like I did, then there's something wrong with you.
Profile Image for L A i N E Y.
396 reviews672 followers
September 23, 2020
Dear Nina Kenwood,

You need to write another book. Trust me you need too. You just do. Please do not hesitate or second-guessing youself about this fact, it’s not up to debate at this point. Not to plagiarize world-renown athletics brand, but just do it.

Because you really need to, okay? You really really need to. And I mean you really really really need to. I don’t know if the piling amount of adverbs works for you or you’re one of those people who finds them obnoxious since we’re not that well-acquainted with each other - you only released one book by the way (and whose fault is that seriously? You cannot expect me to know things about you from just only one book right?) but I hope you take them in consideration because I am very earnestly using them. The adverbs I mean. Because I am terribly and absolutely in love with your debut. I really really am.

Love and take good care of yourself (so you can finish more books!!),
Lainey xx

**And now I understand all these 5 stars I’ve seen all over my feed. And I am proudly adding mine own to the mix.
Profile Image for human.
628 reviews933 followers
March 23, 2021
What do I even really have to say about this book? Gosh, this book. It was absolutely hilarious in the most awkward way possible.

Nothing truly happens in this book. It's mostly about how Natalie, the main character, learns to better accept herself, after going through years of acne due to polycystic ovary syndrome, amidst her best friends hooking up and her parents' divorce.

The characters themselves were fairly well developed. I mean, they don't really grow in any way, but they're established and important to the story. The friendships are similar - they exist, and definitely impact the story, but they don't really change or develop in any meaningful way.

I felt that the romance was... alright? If we're being honest here, I didn't really get any sort of chemistry between them, but it could be cute at times.

There's also the matter of just how awkward this book was. The secondhand embarrassment is soooo real with this one, and I definitely cringed from what was going on more than once. I do, however, think that's a testament to the author's wonderfully charming writing style.

Unlike the way it usually is with contemporaries and me, Natalie didn't feel like some ha-ha-i'm-so-emo-and-quirky girl, but was actually, to some degree, painfully relatable. I absolutely loved her character, and it was honestly such a fun experience reading this book from her perspective.

Overall, this book was really cute. Not much happens, but it made me smile and cringe (often at the same time, which really just adds up to a grimace if you think about it), and it was pretty wholesome on top of all of that. So that was fun.
Profile Image for Kelly (Diva Booknerd).
1,106 reviews299 followers
August 29, 2019
Natalie has been blindsided by her parents separation, despite them having slept in separate bedrooms for the past ten months. Vowing to remain friends and speaking in calming tones, it's just another aspect of Natalie's life she no longer has control over.

Growing up, Natalie didn't have it easy, each day her body rallied against her, leaving her self esteem in a shambles and her confidence battered and bruised. Her painful acne outbreaks, heavy periods and wanting the world to open and swallow her whole and although her skin these days is a little clearer and she has friends she can turn to in her hours of need, Natalie still sees herself as the lonely girl who was so desperately in need of a friend.

I can't even begin to tell you how refreshing it is to see a young adult protagonist who's real. Natalie is the every girl, often painfully shy, an introvert who chooses to stay home as often as possible. Growing up, Natalie's confidence was non existent, especially with her painful acne breakouts. She would try to disappear behind the curtain of her hair and not draw attention to herself, it was easier to become invisible than to have people talking about your bad skin. But still, they did. When you're lacking in confidence and self esteem, any self perceived flaw makes you a target. Bad skin, weight and in my case, horrifically frizzy hair and outbreaks. If Natalie can talk about it, I can certain lay bare.

Fifteen was a difficult age for me. This was before the age of hair straighteners, when we would literally lay our head down on our mother's ironing board and iron our hair straight. If I had great hair then people wouldn't look too closely at my face, which was horrifically acne prone. Like Natalie, I was on medication twice daily to control my outbreaks but once I turned sixteen, it magically disappeared. Spoiler, my hair is still frizzy. Anyone who says being a teen are the best years of your life? They're either lying or too old to remember. Your teen years are some of the most difficult.

Being a party person is completely overrated, just ask Natalie. She's content to hang with friends Lucy and Zach, both of who she met at a camp a few years ago. Natalie was the mutual friend until Zach and Lucy started hooking up, now they're in a relationship and although they include Natalie in most of their plans, it's a bit awkward when your two best friends are having sex and Natalie's sick of being the third wheel and wouldn't mind meeting her special someone. When Zach's super hot brother Alex and friend Owen invite Natalie to a party, her anxiety is sent into overdrive. Why are super hot people even talking to her, never mind inviting her to a party. It has to be a joke, right?

Oh the romance! Adorable. No doubt that Alex is hot but Natalie also assumes with his hotness comes arrogance and he's really quite a sweet boy who's just ridiculously good looking. He also thinks Natalie is beautiful. What I really liked about Alex was that he also allowed Natalie to set the parameters of their relationship and ensuring she was always comfortable. It was frustrating to see those around Natalie not so keen on their relationship, warning her that Alex would ultimately hurt her. Natalie seemingly felt as though they were insinuating that she was naive or Alex's interest would wander. Although their concerns came from a place of looking out for Natalie, it was disappointing that no one had faith in their ability to make it work.

Oh Natalie, I feel you. When you've been down on yourself for so long and watched enough eighties movies where the ordinary girl next door is invited on a date with the super hot random guy, it never ends well. If movies have taught me anything, we can't all be Drew Barrymore returning to high school, nabbing the hot unobtainable guy and the teacher. Especially as females, we convince ourselves that we're not worthy and when these moments of happiness present themselves, we're squinting and looking around for the asshole who's sniggering at our demise.

Natalie is the perfect example of pushing ourselves out of those pyjama wearing comfort zones, it's shit your pants scary but it's how we also grow as people. Through experiences. Natalie doesn't transform into the beautiful swan, she's beautiful as she is but she does start to realise her self worth and realise that not everyone is worthy of her. There's nothing sexier than a woman finding her confidence and Natalie is beginning to develop hers in spades.

It Sounded Better in My Head is a narrative that contains adolescent issues seldom mentioned in young adult literature, periods and the fear of bleeding through our underwear while in public, about polycystic ovary syndrome, painful acne, our confidence and worth. Even as adults, seeing a character like Natalie gracing our pages helps us to feel vindicated, that it's not just me who experienced this, Natalie is someone who understands the ache we carry through to our adult years, of our rattled confidence and the feeling of not being so alone.

I have never found a character more relatable than Natalie. She's you, she's the girl next door, she's your sister, your best friend. She's me. It's books like this that I needed as a teen, a friend, someone you can confide in. For the girl with breakouts and acne prone skin, the girl who made it through puberty with stretch marks, the girl who has no idea what to do with her pubic hair or the one who wears two pads and is still worried about a heavy period. Hands up who had at least one incident of bleeding through their pants in high school?

So embrace your weird bits because all women are beautiful. I've been there Natalie, hang in there girl.
Profile Image for Emma.
893 reviews870 followers
April 28, 2020
The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Full review HERE

I know I'm in the minority when I say that I think this book was just okay, but it's how I truly feel.
I really appreciated how the theme of Natalie's insecurities was dealt with. Bad acne has obviously left her with physical and psychological scars and I think it's important to talk about that.
But what I didn't like was how annoying she was and I also could not take her asking lots of questions to Alex like it was an interrogation instead of a normal conversation. Also, if you don't like something it's okay, but that's not a reason to storm out and to say that you hate everyone at a party.
Something that left me a bit lukewarm was the relationship between Natalie and Alex. My problem wasn't the fact that they have not much in common, but how abruptly their attraction for each other started, especially on Natalie's part.
Overall for me it was just an okay read, nothing more.
Profile Image for Text Publishing.
574 reviews216 followers
January 12, 2023
The following book reviews have been shared by Text Publishing – publisher of It Sounded Better in My Head

‘Loved. Loved. Loved it.’
Melina Marchetta

‘I loved this delightful, funny, big-hearted book. Natalie’s wry internal voice really spoke to the awkward-teen me.’
Melissa Keil

‘This book is delicious—beautiful, funny, real and supremely honest. I devoured it.’
Claire Christian

‘An adorably awkward and real romance. It was love at first chapter for me.’
Emily Gale

‘The most gorgeous, tender-hearted, funny and beautifully awkward story I’ve read all year…I loved this book. Just inhaled it.’
Rebecca Sparrow

'I loved it! Fresh and original contemporary realism leavened with humour, beautifully crafted with relatable characters - this is a novel to relish and recommend.'
Lynndy Bennett, Gleebooks

'A beautiful story about teenage love and heartache. Reading it I wanted to tell teenage me that although life doesn’t always work out the way you think it will, it always works out just the way you need it to.'
Natalie Yabuka, Oscar and Friends

'It Sounded Better In My Head is the best novel about first love and teenage life I have read in a very long time. From the first moment I started reading it I knew it was something special and couldn't put it down.'
Claire Leyton, Harry Hartog Woden

'I absolutely adored this book! It Sounded Better In My Head is deeply tender coming-of age-story about first love, friendship and the all the horrifying awkwardness of navigating young adulthood. Thrumming with wonderfully nuanced and vividly depicted emotion, this book will make your heart soar, while also making you laugh. Packed full of wry humour and an utterly lovable cast of characters - including one of the most achingly vulnerable and deeply relatable narrators I have encountered in a long time - this book is a delight to read and I am already looking forward to whatever Nina Kenwood writes next!'
Sarah McDuling, Booktopia

'I’m not sure I will adequately express my love for this book. A big-hearted, positive and hilarious portrayal of the excruciating awkwardness and insecurity of young adulthood. Utter perfection!'
Emma Leslie, Dymocks Melbourne

'I absolutely adored this novel by Nina Kenwood. It is a raw and painfully real account of being completely uncool, figuring out what you’re doing with your life, finding a boyfriend and dealing with the breakup of your parents. I laughed (alot), I cringed (alot), I might even have shed a few tears. I think teenagers will really relate to the authentic voice and fall a little bit in love with the voice of Natalie, just like I did.'
Angela Crocombe, Readings Kids

'I was compelled to keep reading, as it threw me way back to being a teenager, leaving school and not knowing for sure what was to come next. I loved that whilst Natalie had her hang-ups, like everyone does, she was brave and honest and tried. That’s all we can do in this life. A wonderful coming of-age-story.'
Beck Hutcheson, Avenue Bookshop

'Funny and honest and loaded with great characters…You know a book works when you feel like you’ve made friends by novel’s end and you care about these characters. I cared about Natalie and Lucy and Zach and Alex.'
Paul MacDonald, The Children’s Bookshop

'This is a brilliant book. It captures so many of those unspoken moments of young adulthood; those insecurities that seem both too weird and too normal to voice. (It's perfect for school leavers, third wheels and anyone feeling a little bit lost.) It's a relief to read and surprised so many laughs out of me. I think every 15+ should be given this next Christmas.'
Genevieve Kruyssen, Where the Wild Things Are

‘Nina Kenwood has created nuanced and authentic characters, each caught up in their trajectory towards adulthood…a gorgeous and funny coming-of-age novel that perfectly captures the awkward, liminal nature of adolescence.’

‘A deeply tender coming-of-age story about first love, friendship, and all the horrifying awkwardness of navigating young adulthood. Thrumming with wonderfully nuanced and vividly depicted emotion, this book will make your heart soar, while also making you laugh.’

‘This book is a rare gem; a simple story told with an utterly authentic and humorous voice that portrays with great empathy the insecurities and confusion of young adulthood…an absolute knockout of a novel [that] will win over hearts and minds everywhere!’

‘[A]n outstanding book that captures perfectly the liminal moment at the end of high school before ‘real life’ begins – in my opinion, it’s the younger, funnier cousin of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, and I think Nina is about to become quite famous.’
Alison Huber

‘I loved every word of it…Kenwood captures so many late-teenage feelings so perfectly…I really couldn’t stop thinking of Sally Rooney’s work while I read this book—the clear, conversational prose is absolutely spot on, and every scene is keenly observed…If you only read one YA book this year, make it this one.’
Kill Your Darlings

‘A sweet, funny and relatable account of the dramas of those grappling with late adolescence…Kenwood masters with aplomb the dialogue of her characters.’

'An appealing and clever exploration of teenage fears and joys.’

'Compared to Sally Rooney and Judy Blume, Kenwood is a major talent and this charismatic, booknerdishly cool novel is an absolute delight. Give it to your favourite teenager or keep it for yourself.’

'The novel perfectly captures the terror of being in-between, caught both in the liminal space between adolescence and adulthood, and in that befuddling period where a friendship might be turning into something more. A perfect pick for fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2014) who are looking for their next quirky romantic heroine.’

‘Kenwood’s comedic writing immediately charmed me, the characters are truly such a delight.’
Bonnie Mai, Readings

‘Both [It Sounded Better in My Head and Unnecessary Drama] are sweet and funny and poignant…What’s not to love?’
Kate Constable, author of The Singer of All Songs
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,855 reviews1,495 followers
August 5, 2020
I'm having a hard time writing this review and I don't know why. And now it has been over a week so I'm essentially throwing in the towel and just doing the best I can. I think the cover copy is awful as it doesn't at all convey the spirit of the book. For one, it overplays her past semi-crush on Zach and implies way more resentment than she actually has. For another, it doesn't even hint at how deeply affected Natalie is by a crippling case of anxiety over her looks. It's seriously a center-point of the story and important to her character arc (or her character at all, frankly).

Kenwood makes an interesting choice in having Natalie on the extreme end of adolescent acne. Such that, even with careful and fully modern treatment, she's left with scars on her back and a deep-seated anxiety from having children literally recoil at her appearance. She's "better" now, but still carries those scars (literal as well as emotional) and that's material to every interaction she has with others—particularly romantic overtures (as you'd expect). Kenwood does a fantastic job making that reality present and a strong pull on this reader's engagement with Natalie and that's at least part of what makes this story outstanding.

But part of what really sealed this for me, too, is Natalie's fumbling towards a relationship with Zach's brother Alex. He's a popular, good-looking guy who didn't really prioritize academics. So you'd think they wouldn't have any way to relate (Natalie turned her restless energy towards study when her appearance took such a detrimental hit). But seeing his caring nature and fundamental kindness and watching him work out how to reach Natalie was fantastic. And not least because we get to see how he recovers when he screws up.

I'm less happy about the best friends, Zach and Lucy. It's clear that they care about Natalie, but they're often negligent. And Zach is so judgmental and selfish enough to grate on me. They're good friends, yes. And there for Natalie when she needs them. But they occasionally need reminding to step up and I'm not happy with the resolution of their character arc, either.

I'm not quite willing to extend this a full five stars, despite it being a really strong and engaging story. Natalie is a bit too extreme to fully relate to and that was uncomfortable. Like, I had pretty bad acne as a teen so I can almost relate to how it affected her. But I didn't have it that bad so even as I could say "yeah, that stuff sucked" I couldn't actually relate to her much more extreme case. So this is a strong four stars and I'm glad I was able to track down a copy at my local library.

A note about Chaste/Steamy: There's lots of talk about sex. And some detailed foreplay. But we don't get any actual explicit sex on page. Or, at least, I don't remember any. So there's enough I can't call this "chaste" but not enough that I can reasonably tag it "Steamy", either. The one almost-sex-scene was deeply endearing, though, and I fell for Alex wholly, there.
Profile Image for Zitong Ren.
504 reviews152 followers
August 9, 2020
It’s sort of occurred to me that in this current time where most of us are facing lots of uncertainty, I sort of either want to read a book that brings and feels a sense of normalcy, or read super depressing and horrible to make myself feel better that our world isn’t that bad yet. I picked up this book before I guess I was looking for something that would be fairly light-hearted and fun, which it definitely was, and I really enjoyed it. It was fun and there lots of cute moments and fairly interesting characters. There wasn’t really any plot, but it’s a contemporary romance so I wasn’t really expecting any and I’m sure most people don’t read a romance for the plot.

I actually found that this book perfectly highlighted the fact that unfortunately, or fortunately, that nothing lasts forever, and everything is frankly subject to change. You may have planned out your life for the next decade but small thing could derail that completely and that happens a fair lot in this book and I was glad that it wasn’t entirely smooth and there lots of good that happened to our main character, Natalie, but also some things that she was not expecting. I mean, this book begins with her parents announcing their divorce. I found that the title fit quite well with the events in the novel as Natalie had planned things out and everything was going to work, and it sounded great in her head, but then reality happens, and things change, and people change, and the world changes.

It’s actually really good for me to be reading books by Australian authors as for once, I actually where the characters are, and it’s just really nice for some reason. This novel takes place in my home city of Melbourne and some of the language used and abbreviations of things are what we Melburnians use so everything made a lot of sense and I didn’t have to look up any of the locations that the characters go to.

I really for Natalie as a character, who deals with low self-esteem and anxiety as well as body image problems for things that people around her have said about her acne. I thought that it was represented well and there’s only a little bit of development in terms of coming to terms with certain things, but since most of this novel only takes the place of just a few weeks, it is very understandable as to why there’s isn’t a lot of change. It also raises the point that we need to learn to be polite and not make fun or talk about how others look as it could potentially scar them for life and make them feel uncomfortable with their body.

The best way for me to describe the romance is cute. It’s not super serious or romantic or anything, but it’s cute and nice and I liked it. There’s the whole sharing the bed trope which was pretty amusing, ngl, and it sort of just feels like a teenage relationship. Thankfully there were no blatant declarations of love, and they pair of them(Natalie and Alex in this case) had their fair shares of ups and downs and, and arguments, but also time where their relationship really consolidated into something more meaningful. The book leaves it pretty open as to what direction it is headed in and that was fine by me. It wasn’t overly developed, but it did a decent job considering it is quite a short book. I liked both Lucy and Zack as characters and what they represented to Natalie, but as the book was so heavily centred on Natalie, Lucy and Zack’s relationship was a bit underdeveloped and we never really see much of it.

I liked the ending, it was sort of bittersweet and it wasn’t overly joyful, but it heralds for an interesting, but also sort of uncertain life ahead, where things have completely changed to what Natalie was planning just a few weeks prior. It does show the characters are still moving on with life and aren’t letting things stop them from reaching their dreams in life.

It’s probably not going to be very memorable to be honest, but I liked it while I was reading it, it was fun, and it was cute and it was what I needed in the moment. 7.5/10
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,005 reviews1,050 followers
August 3, 2020
This is unbelievably relatable. Had I read this when I was 18, I would have hugged Natalie in solid camaraderie that she is not alone because I was exactly like her except I didn't have PCOS which understandably ups her anxiety level more. Also, my parents never announced a divorce.

But in all things that mattered, Natalie and I were the same, both introverts, both uncomfortable in our own skin, both socially inept, both hated parties. Even our clothes were the same. Big jumpers, beanies, jackets with hood. And we both wore shirts as a beach wear instead of suits. We are both Scorpio, no kidding. We both have two best friends, a guy and a girl except mine didn't become in a relationship but I'm very proud to say that 20 years later, we're still best friends. It's uncanny, my similarities with Natalie. It almost felt like reading about the 18 year old me. Lol.

Told in Natalie's really funny perspective, I enjoyed her journey in trying to be okay or at peace with who she is, coming to terms with her parents' divorce, accepting her best friends being in a romantic relationship while completely being anxious about the fact that she might also be developing a romantic although awkward relationship with her best friend's older brother. Too cute!

Thankfully, like Natalie did, I also outgrew that sad stage of my life, not that I magically transformed into a different person but I just grew to be comfortable with who I am and that's exactly what Natalie experiences. Full of emotion and humor and memorable characters, this book resonated with me and I bet it'll make it to my top 10 best reads this year.

Profile Image for kate.
1,078 reviews915 followers
May 25, 2020
This was an utter delight. JUST SO CUTE.

The Good:
- The romance was SO CUTE I literally found myself squealing at 2am but it was also messy and honest and imperfect and I loved that.
- It was incredibly easy to read, allowing me to fly through it in two sittings.
- I adored the discussion of the deep, both physically and emotionally scarring effects puberty and acne can leave on a person.
- Natalie wasn't perfect. She snipped and could be mean but this made her feel SO real. She wasn't a squeaky clean protagonist and I loved that.
- The discussions surrounding not know what you want to do after high school, despite the world telling you that you should have it all figured out were fab.

The not so great:
- Honestly? There's really not much I can put here. I guess, had it been slightly longer, I'd like to have seen Natalies relationship with her parents and her friendship with Zach and Lucy fleshed out a bit but it wasn't something that bothered me.

All in all, this was a perfectly adorable contemporary about learning to accept yourself, accept what you can't control, first love and growing up. It had a wonderful depth to it whilst also being light, funny and uplifting and it was a pleasure to read.
Profile Image for fra ☆.
74 reviews38 followers
July 29, 2020
i can't believe nina kenwood wrote a book about me and didn't even tell me
Profile Image for jenny✨.
563 reviews772 followers
February 25, 2022
echoing several of my goodreads friends who've read this novel: reading this made me feel SO seen.

i laughed so much and cringed so hard—and always with affection and empathy. i related deeply to natalie's self-consciousness and insecurity (and her earnest attempts to cope with and grow from both). there were moments when i couldn't help my eyes from welling up, even as i was cackling. i felt incredibly affirmed reading natalie's story, equal parts honest and endearing and funny.

nina kenwood, PLEASE publish more stories!

bottom line: i had so much fun reading this novel and feeling 🥺 at all the awkward and heartfelt moments that hit so close to home.

sheena, thank you for telling me i should read this!!! ❤️ it was just as good as you said it would be.
Profile Image for Emma.
213 reviews119 followers
May 27, 2020
I started this book on a whim because I was in desperate need of escapism, and this was absolutely perfect. A new comfort read for sure, this was filled with just the right amount of tropes that made it so enjoyable. It's familiar at times - I mean, we've got dating your best friend's brother, 'there's only one bed', etc etc. Even still, this was truly SUCH a delight to read. I mean sure, it's predictable, but it's also entertaining and funny and wholly relatable. It's a book about experiencing your 'firsts', and the end of high school, and grappling with an unknown future. It's a book about learning to be comfortable in your skin and living in spite of your insecurities. And it's about adjusting to a new life when everything unexpectedly changes and nothing's going as planned.

I really am beginning to love YA contemporaries focused on older YA narrators (like 18, 19, etc). because it's so insanely relatable to me. Books about facing the uncertainty in your future, and dealing with the 'I have no idea what I'm doing with my life.' This book portrayed that wonderfully, and I loved it. Natalie is such a likable narrator because I truly understood her. My insecurities are not the same as hers, but I could still emphasize with everything she was going through. I just love narrators that are flawed and imperfect and real, yet still have their own unique personalities. They show what it's really like, to be a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, and how frightening yet exciting it is at the same time.

I will agree that this reads like the first 260 pages of a 350+ page book. There was a bit that felt incomplete, especially since Natalie and Alex were still in the early stages of a relationship at the end. Still, that didn't bother me much. I needed a quick and enjoyable read, and this was so satisfying. I really enjoyed their relationship, even if it was not fully developed at the end of the novel, because that's kind of the point. It's about the beginning stages of a romance, and navigating the uncertainty that comes from experiencing it for the first time.

I would highly, highly recommend this to anyone looking for a hilarious, lighthearted read. This book is so underrated, and I truly wish more people were reading this book.
this was so cute and yet, also painfully relatable? trust me, I will never get over this. so good

yet again, review to come // 4 stars
Profile Image for Jeann (Happy Indulgence) .
1,001 reviews3,078 followers
December 13, 2019
It Sounded Better in My Head is heart-warming, adorable, relatable and exactly what I needed to read.

Having graduated high school, Natalie hears that her parents will be separating and she also starts dating for the first time. She's on the cusp of major change in her life that will be happening whether she likes it or not.

Natalie's voice is immediately relatable, describing her insecurities with having acne and anxious thoughts about her friends, future, parents splitting up and pretty much everything. She's an introvert who prefers the comfort of her own home and predictable routines, but when she starts dating a party boy who also happens to be her best friend's brother, her life as she knows it gets tipped upside down.

I loved how it focused on the comfort of her close-knit friendship group and navigating the awkwardness of her two best friends dating. She relies on Lucy and Zach for providing the much-needed support and advice and they just felt so wholesome. This doesn't mean things are always rosy however, as the three of them have much to work through.

The romance was incredibly endearing - from obsessing over texts, to fantasising about her love life, to learning to communicate with her new date - it really captures the essence of first love and working things out together.

Things aren't all perfect however, Natalie guards a lot of her pain with sarcastic remarks and thinly veiled passive-aggressiveness, and her parents take the brunt of it as she works out how she feels about their separation. Sometimes I wished that she would be more empathetic towards her parents, and even her friends who still made the effort to include her even though they were together.

Check out Happy Indulgence Books for more reviews!

I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Alaina.
5,931 reviews216 followers
April 25, 2020
I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

It Sounded Better in My Head was honestly a really cute ass book. In it, you will meet Natalie and Alex. Now Natalie is completely and adorably awkward. I instantly loved her and definitely felt her confusion, pain, and excitement in everything she did. Even if she probably did better in school than me.

The only difference between me and her is that I'm a lot more outgoing - still awkward though. When we see her outside of her comfort zone, I was just so intrigued. I honestly couldn't put this down because from the very first moment, I really adored her and Alex. Who cares that he is her best friends older brother - they were freaking adorable throughout the book.

Of course this book had it's fair share of drama.. but probably not what you would expect. Other than that, it was a fun and quick book! Definitely happy that I got the chance to dive into it.
Profile Image for Donna.
272 reviews66 followers
February 26, 2020
First time in a long time that I have read a book in one sitting. Such an enjoyable, engaging conversational style of writing. I reckon many girls reading this will easily relate to Natalie. I empathized with her acne agony and felt the cringe worthiness of her social isolation and awkwardness. Was I reading a novel or holding a mirror to my teen self albeit last century?

Great mix of teen characters - joyous, funny and at times quite poignant.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,269 reviews116 followers
August 15, 2019
It Sounded Better In My Head is the first novel by Australian author, Nina Kenwood, and winner of the 2018 Text Prize of YA and Children’s Writing. When Natalie’s father announces on Christmas Day that he and her mother are separating, it’s a shock. This news, and their infuriatingly calm manner of imparting it, is almost eclipsed, however, by the fact that they kept this from her for ten months. Her world (already somewhat disordered when her two best friends, Zach and Lucy decided they were in love) has now turned upside down.

Further disruptions to her reassuringly predictable, neatly mapped-out life are not welcome, and when Alex decides to take a romantic interest in Natalie, she’s wary, even sceptical: surely he’s not genuinely interested; there must be some other motive. An added complication is that Alex is Zach’s older brother, and Zach is uncomfortable with the whole situation for a number of reasons, only one of which doesn’t totally irritate Natalie.

Kenwood gives the reader a cast of very believable characters who are appealing for all their flaws and quirks. Eighteen-year-old Natalie is, as Zach says, “smart, funny and interesting”. Kenwood includes lots of entertaining dialogue which means that readers should avoid reading this novel in the quiet carriage on public transport as the inevitable laughing out loud might disturb other travellers, but this also means it would make an excellent telemovie.

For the extremely fortunate many who will never suffer it, in Natalie’s description of her experience with cystic acne Kenwood shines a spotlight on the effects, both physical and psychological, of this devastating condition: “...pimples that turned, almost overnight, into deep cystic acne. Thick, hard, welt-like lumps formed under my skin on my back, shoulders, neck and face... It was gross. I was gross. I woke up every day thinking that for a long time.”

In particular, thoughtless, uninformed or downright nasty comments from strangers about appearance undermine self-esteem: “My body was a shameful disaster. I was too embarrassed to go outside unless I absolutely had to. No, it was worse than that. I was too embarrassed to exist” to the extent that Natalie actually decides “…’my parents are splitting up’ is a refreshingly normal and acceptable problem to have, and it’s far less embarrassing than an ‘I-have-an-infected-pimple-that’s-so-huge-and-disfiguring-that-it-has-sent-me-into-a-spiral-of-depression-so-I-won’t-be-getting-out-of-bed-today kind of issue’”

So Natalie’s anxiety over what could be her first love (and possibly first sex) is, naturally, enhanced by her insecurity, and her second-guessing just about every social interaction is hardly unexpected. Her voice is genuine, often self-deprecating, and her inner monologue oscillates between hilarious and heart breaking.

While it is labelled Young Adult and will definitely appeal to that age group, that does not mean that older adults will not enjoy it. This is an outstanding debut novel; if you've overdosed on psychological thrillers lately, take a break with this delightfully fresh and funny feel-good story.
This unbiased review is from a copy provided by Text Publishing
Profile Image for Sofia Casanova.
Author 1 book45 followers
August 4, 2019
This is one of my favourite books of 2019! It Sounded Better in My Head is a gorgeous and hilarious YA debut about friendship, longing and how to navigate life after high school. The protagonist Natalie is a quirky big-hearted girl whose parents have announced they’re getting a divorce. Turning to her best friends Zach and Lucy, who have recently become a couple, she’s left feeling awkward and unsure about her life. Why hasn’t it turned out how she expected it to? And when she starts spending more time with Zach’s older brother Alex, things only become much more complicated. Nina’s writing is effortless and tender, creating characters that feel like your real life friends and whose problems you want to help solve. I laughed and cried and fell in love with how perfectly Nina captures the teenage experience and just how awkward and funny it is when you have no idea what to do with a boy or girl you like.
Profile Image for Sheena.
560 reviews250 followers
May 12, 2020
I read this in one sitting (actually I took a break to eat dinner) and my thought process while reading this was thinking that this would be a 3 star, then it went up to 4 star, and then it shot up to 5 stars.

Natalie is one of the most relatable characters in a long time - maybe to even have ever existed. Her insecurities, anxieties, and just her general personality/interests really resonated with me because I felt like she was me at point or another. Her thoughts were thoughts that I had at 18 and sometimes even now! I saw her in me and related to almost everything she was saying. I was instantly transported to my high school from college transition where the biggest worries I had were college, boys, and all the other normal things that come with growing up. On top of that, I thought she was funny and found myself laughing at her jokes throughout the book. I don't normally read contemporary romances and have recently begun again this year and am SO glad I decided to pick this one up. I had my expectations pretty low and was pleasantly surprised by this one!

4.5-5 stars
Profile Image for Sofie |.
243 reviews148 followers
April 17, 2021
But when people say you’ve got to love yourself first, they never explain how, exactly, you get past people screaming ‘gross bitch’, how you get past feeling like your best days are only your best days because you’re managing to hide the bad bits, how you feel desirable if no one has ever desired you.

Is this a romance? Sure. But more than anything, this is a poignant story about a girl with deep insecurities and self-doubt, navigating through her first kind-of-maybe relationship with her best friend's brother, all while her parents are going through a divorce.

I ugly cried. I don't think I've ever read a protagonist that felt so similar to myself. I understood Natalie so deeply, I cried for her, with her, and knew her pain and doubt and lack of self worth as surely as I've known my own. During the chapters with her parents, I was getting flashbacks to my own parents separation, which happened when I was 15. To be honest, it feels like Kenwood took a page out of my diary, as if she'd had a glimpse into my life and saw something there worth writing about.

I loved every single character. Natalie, her parents, her friends, Alex. The relationships felt so authentic to me, and everyone was fleshed out, especially Natalie's parents. They reminded me so much of my own. Their chapters were probably the one's I got the most emotional at.

I know this book won't be for everyone. I only wish it had been around when I was in high school. Maybe I would felt a little less alone. (god, that's sappy and kinda sad. All this to say, it was a lovely novel and I will probably be thinking about it for a while.)
Profile Image for Marie.
464 reviews175 followers
May 15, 2020
Trigger warnings:
Diversity: queer side character, main character with polycistic ovarian syndrom and cystic acne.

I just loved this SO much, I think it's one of the very rare times where I found a book character SO damn relatable and speaking to teenage-me that I just have to recognize that. I adore Natalie, I really liked the friendship, the slow burning relationship and all the messy complex feelings in this book.
I just loved this and you should read this okay.

Read my full review of It Sounded Better in my Head on the blog!
Thank you to MacMillan International for the ARC of this book. This did not, in any way, influenced my thoughts and rating.

My Blog - Drizzle & Hurricane Books - Bookstagram Twitter - Bloglovin'
Profile Image for Tracey.
625 reviews467 followers
August 28, 2019
This book was adorable, and sweet, and real, and laugh out loud funny, and oh so relatable. Natalie was me as a teen and parts of her are still me now as an adult. LOVED IT!
Profile Image for ila ✨.
76 reviews5 followers
January 1, 2020
[actual rating: 4.5 stars] "at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, going to school was hard. Friday night would arrive and i would be filled with such relief. i would unclench and lie on my bed and breathe deeply and reassure myself: i don't have to go outside or see anyone other than my parents for the next two whole days". it took me a few hours (five? six?) to finish It Sounded Better in My Head, and i spent approximately half of them crying (a bit hysterically) and the other half laughing (often out loud). i originally added it to my tbr because: 1. it's set in Melbourne, which is one of my favourite cities in the world 2. the cover is really, really cute 3. the premise sounded interesting enough (family! friendship! first love! what's not to like?). i certainly did not expect to love it (and relate to it) as much as i did, but it was incredible and i just couldn't put it down. the main character, Natalie, is incredibly funny and relatable, and i absolutely LOVED her. and while i've read A Lot of ya books about teenagers dealing with anxiety, insecurities & self-hatred, i think that this is the first one that truly resonated with me. the ending felt a bit rushed, though; i would've loved an epilogue. thoroughly recommended!
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