Book Review: ‘Fans of the Impossible Life’ by Kate Scelsa

fans of the impossible lifeThis is the story of a girl, her gay best friend, and the boy in love with both of them.

Ten months after her recurring depression landed her in the hospital, Mira is starting over as a new student at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to act like a normal, functioning human this time around, not a girl who sometimes can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby. 

Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with a mischievous glint in his eye.  

Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him like a backlit halo. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and secret road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives. 

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

A captivating and profound debut novel, Fans of the Impossible Life is a story about complicated love and the friendships that change you forever.

A really brilliant, bittersweet tale. I’ve had hit and miss experiences with YA contemporaries this year, but take my word for it, this is one of the good ones.

“May we live impossibly,” Sebby said when he opened his eyes. “Against all odds. May people look at us and wonder how such jewels can sparkle in the sad desert of the world. May we live the impossible life.”

It’s a diverse read to boot, with a mixed-race, plus-size girl who suffers from depression and chronic fatigue; her best friend, a gay foster-care kid with substance abuse issues stuck in a home where no-one cares about him; and Jeremy, a shy art kid returning to school after a traumatic incident who becomes their friend. And yes, I know from this description that it sounds like the author tries to include every “issue” imaginable, but it doesn’t feel forced at all, and what’s more, it really, really works.

Fans of the Impossible Life may not be action-packed, but it’s a journey of survival, recovery, and relapses in the personal development of the three main characters. There is humour and glorious banter amidst the darker aspects of this novel, and I thought the author did a fantastic job in nailing the emotions of Mira, Sebby, and Jeremy.

They rolled up the maps of their bodies until they were two continents of interlocking roads and rivers and dreams, and she thought, ‘This is how I will learn to live again’. 

Above all, it is a story about how the friends we make become our families, our lifelines–how these connections can be what keep us going from day to day, but in the end, it’s not always up to them to save us. And it’s not always fair of us to expect them to.

There are problems that come along with becoming a person who needs other people. Especially if you have invested most of your identity in being alone.

While the ending is rather sad, it does give us a tiny hint of hope, as at least two of the characters have moved on to a better place, mentally. It’s a book that contrasts very different family situations, and very different personal issues, but which unites our characters in their everyday dramas, coping mechanisms, and the joy they find in each other’s company.

Rating: 9/10

ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.

Hannah is a twenty-something born and bred Capetonian who adores reading and reviewing books, and encouraging critical discussion on all things pop culture. Currently a politics graduate student, she spent two years working in digital marketing before deciding she missed the student life. Loves QI, travel, dark chocolate, fantasy & YA books, pilates and sarcasm.