Even Weirder Than Before by Susie Taylor

I have grown to dislike the overused term “coming of age” but that’s how many reviewers will describe Susie Taylor’s Even Weirder Than Before (2019, Breakwater Books), a chronicle of Daisy Radcliffe’s life journey from Grade 8 through the end of high school in the late 80s/early 90s. Fast-paced, it hits all the highs and lows of the teen years: boring classes, romances, school plays, house parties (and drinking too much), teen pregnancies and more. If you grew up in this era before smartphones and PCs, when telephones still had cords, you’ll be able to relate and you’ll love every page. Even though I went to high school a decade and a half earlier than Daisy and her friends, there was still much to identify within this bittersweet tale set in and around Toronto.

“This is the truest depiction of what it feels like to grow up that I’ve read in a very long time.”

Lisa Moore
As an example of contemporary fiction, it recalled to mind another excellent book from Breakwater Books, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes.  (2017) While it is set in a different time period (the digital age), it too was a balanced mix of humour and commentary on the times.

Some favourite passages:

  • I stare at the back of Wanda’s head during last period. Her hair is shiny and thick like in shampoo commercials. sometimes she grabs it and piles it on top of her head; when she lets go, it tumbles down like a waterfall. Mine is always full of static and sticks flatly to my face. I try casually playing with my own hair like Wanda does, and a bunch of dandruff drifts down onto my desk.
  • “We’re going to have fun in high school,” says Wanda.
    “Are we?” I ask.
    “We’re going to blow everyone’s minds,” she says. I almost believe her.
  • It’s good to get out of the apartment. Mum gets burgers for us all at the drive-through, and we eat them in the parking lot of Mr. Burger Giant. There is a sign for Mr. Burger Giant on a tall pole. We watch it as we eat. It is a huge lit-up burger face wearing sunglasses and a top hat. It flickers a little, and then while we are watching, the left side burns out like it’s had a stroke.
  • My house is closer. We sneak in quietly, but Mum hears us anyway.
    “Daisy?” she calls down.
    “It’s just me,” I yell in my brightest I-have-not-been-drinking-or-smoking-or-sleeping-in-a-cemetery voice.
See also  Mud Lilies by Indra Ramayan 

As I progressed through the book, I came to appreciate all the different characters Ms. Taylor has created, and it truly appears as if a teen is talking to you, disclosing all the personal stuff she cannot (or will not) share with her Mum or other adults. In high school, we kept to our close friends and we lived our lives together and shared experiences in a manner that we might never do with anyone ever again. An ideal summer read it will leave any reader of any age with a smile on their face, nostalgic for a more innocent time in our lives. I will add it to the 2020 longlist for a “The Very Best!” Book Award in the First Book (Fiction) category.

To learn more about her book, there’s an insightful interview with Susie Taylor at the All Lit Up website: https://alllitup.ca/Blog/2019/An-Interview-with-Author-Susie-Taylor

Naomi at Consumed by Ink said in her review of the book that “Susie Taylor has created a memorable character in Daisy Radcliffe.”

Even Weirder Than Before by Susie Taylor
Breakwater Books

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/2S2S1mr  Thanks!

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July 7, 2019 11:34

What a great book this is. It felt absolutely true. (And the cover suits perfectly!)
This line makes me laugh: “I yell in my brightest I-have-not-been-drinking-or-smoking-or-sleeping-in-a-cemetery voice.”

Reply to  James M. Fisher
July 19, 2019 17:25

Sorry – just seeing this now! Yes, I’ve read it and am writing about it right now (finally!).

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