Floating Upstream, by Jo Vraca
Coming of age genre really felt defined in this novel. Julia's life is already defined for her: arranged marriage, a family at eighteen, and absolutely no say whatsoever as to what she gets to do. With an abusive father, a compliant mother, and the draw of freedom with a boy she loves, her life just got a lot more difficult. I think it's the kind of trapped feeling that many people can identify with, and it plays a huge role in the narrative.
All in all, this was a really sweet tale. Lots of positivity to go with the bad. It felt raw and real; a reflection of real life. A fictional memoir, almost. Julia's life genuinely sucks, but she remains a dreamer. She has a small support group with her brother and some gypsies, and they help keep her grounded and focused. Friendship and love were huge themes, and they are brought to light in a wonderful,whimsical way.
Narrator tone maintains that whimsical feeling. The reader experiences Julia's longing, heartache, and indecision in a way that will make their heart clench. Emotions were evoked in a purposeful and in-your-face manner. Nothing was sugar coated. That really enhanced the reader experience, I think. Words and sentence structure were really crafted with a singular goal in mind. One that was accomplished very well.
And let me tell you about how well characters were made to go along with that. It's obvious how much care and attention the author paid to them. All of them were integral to the plot and each other. There was so much development to go around, even with the secondary characters. Not one of them finished in the same place they started. They were the kinds of people that readers would easily be able to identify with. In a way, they were all romantic-type characters that fit in well with the floaty narrative.
No matter how much life got her down, Julia kept trudging along. She suffered so many setbacks, like so many people do, but she never gave up. She turned it into fuel to get her through life. I think that's a huge, important takeaway for readers. Inspirational, almost, because life sucks and never goes the way we want it to.
I really liked this narrative. Everything from the plot, to the characters, and the description. The climax and the ending were absolutely perfect, in my opinion. Definitely a must-read for audiences of all ages. Exceptionally well done.