Title: 10 Things I Can See From Here
Author: Carrie Mac
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Date of Publication: 28th February, 2017
Page Count: 320 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Perfect for fans of Finding Audrey and Everything, Everything, this is the poignant and uplifting story of Maeve, who is dealing with anxiety while falling in love with a girl who is not afraid of anything.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.
Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.
Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?
I like to read other people’s reviews to see if I’m in the majority of minority with my opinion, and I’m really surprised to see that my overwhelming love for this book isn’t the norm on Goodreads where it currently has an average rating of 3.64. Reading through some of the criticisms only reinforced my affection for the main character and her story, and I’m going to stubbornly hold onto my 5-star rating for this one!
I requested this from Netgalley because the protagonist, Maeve, combines two character traits I relate to and therefore find most interesting to read about: she struggles with mental illness and she’s a lesbian. And on both counts, I was very pleased with how the author portrayed Maeve.
I know some readers found her recital of grim statistics and the way she frequently composed hypothetical obituaries for unlikely ways in which she or others died to be annoying, but I empathized. It’s very easy for people who don’t suffer from anxiety to say ‘just don’t think about it‘, and it’s a common instruction that I’m so very sick of hearing from people around me. If it were that simple, do you think we would have such serious issues?! We don’t ENJOY being miserable and stressed out!
Maeve’s coping mechanism was both realistic (she needs to be as prepared as possible) and amusing to me, since I have a black sense of humor. This writing device was also subverted endearingly on a couple occasions, like this gem:
“A very small section of Maeve Glover’s neuroses drowned in Alice Lake today. Though it is survived by the bulk of her anxiety, which is kept alive by an infinite list of things to worry about, we are delighted to bury this one tiny piece. There is great hope that this death is permanent.”
A while ago, I went looking for lesbian YA novels and was disappointed that a lot of the titles were based on angsty coming out tales and stories of prejudice and despair. (I’m sorry, but I’m never picking up ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post‘, no matter how many accolades – reading about a young girl sent to fix-it camp to de-gay her is not my idea of a good time) I’m really happy that there are a lot more books being released these days in which the lead character is unapologetically gay and confident in their sexual orientation, where the story isn’t about them coming to terms with who they are, but simply showing them dealing with the same issues as everyone else – family dysfunction, falling in love, social dynamics and so on.
That’s one of the best things about ‘10 Things I Can See From Here‘ – Maeve has already come out to her family and it’s no big deal, she can carry on without any burden on her shoulders about her sexuality. And the way she described her attraction to girls was so simple and eloquent:
“Being queer was also about not being into boys. Just as it was about attraction, it was also about an absence of attraction, like white space. Girls shimmered, as if all the light shone on them and not on the boys at all. Boys were hardly there, just shadows and background noise. I liked how girls talked, and moved, the way they smiled, or tucked their hair behind an ear…the lines of their arms and the curves of their bodies.”
Instead, the issue for her is trying to negotiate a relationship when she’s riddled with neuroses! I am so relieved that the author didn’t magically cure all of Maeve’s problems through True Love ™, and we see Maeve self-sabotage throughout the story, then seek the strength to course-correct and pursue her happiness despite all her fears. It’s such a sympathetic and inspiring plot arc, and she was very easy to root for the whole way through – sometimes I get frustrated with protagonists and the silly decisions they make, but Maeve was always so understandable and even if I didn’t relate to her anxieties at some points, it felt so real to her that I could see why she’d make things harder for herself.
A couple of criticisms do ring true – her relationship with Salix is almost too easy. Maeve is a jittery mess and barely capable of holding a conversation with Salix at first, but the other girl staunchly pursues her regardless and is endlessly accommodating of her issues and perfectly understanding to the point where it’s blatant wish-fulfillment. Where do I find me a Salix?! That didn’t keep me from enjoying the way their romance played out, though, I found it so adorable and was happy to vicariously live it through Maeve!
But I don’t agree that this was insta-love because it’s perfectly obvious that they crush on each other at first sight and explore that attraction on a few dates, which is the normal way relationships progress. They don’t reach ride-or-die status after an hour of knowing each other, which is what frustrates me about insta-love pairings. And while Salix starts off the near flawless It Girl at the start, she does receive some much-welcome shading to her character and we see cracks in that perfect facade that serve to humanize her from the middle onwards.
The parenting on display in the book is highly questionable – Maeve’s parents love her, but won’t allow her to take medication to handle her anxiety disorder? This is a serious issue that’s hampering her from living her life normally, but we get a couple lines about how they think she’s too young to take pill and it’s never raised again, which is a baffling choice. There’s also a revelation about what happened with her friend Ruthie that…is another very strange writing choice and quite unnecessary as Maeve’s reaction doesn’t seem realistic and the author doesn’t treat this issue with the gravity it deserves.
However, these were only minor niggling criticisms that I had, on the whole, the book was so captivating and such a pleasure to lose myself in. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from this book, which is mildly spoilery from a character growth standpoint as it’s from the end where Maeve has her personal epiphany, but it resonates with me too strongly to omit:
“I was astonished at what I could do. And I wondered what else I could do. Maybe I would always wear the heavy boots of anxiety and the prickly coat of worry, but maybe – even still – I could just be a person who belongs in the world, even if it’s hard.”
Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 kitties approve this book!
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Random House Children’s Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.