You know what, I didn't like movie The Hangover. Just putting that out there. Obviously, From What I Remember... is the YA equivalent of The Hangover, yet I still really wanted to read it. Welcome to my crazy brain. Anyway, I held out hopes that a YA version would be less crude and disgusting, and, hurrah!, I was rewarded with a ridiculous, fun read. Oh, another plus? That chihuahua on the cover? In the book for like five seconds.
From What I Remember... opens in classic hangover comedy style on the morning after. Kylie Flores, responsible misanthrope, Valedictorian, awakens on the morning of graduation in Mexico, all snuggled up with the hottest guy in school, Max Langston. Oh, and they're both wearing wedding rings. Not only that, but his enraged girlfriend, Lily, just showed up. Then, of course, the story jumps back into the past two days, and we begin the process of discovering just how this situation came about. As hooks go, this one's effective, though it did make me seriously impatient.
Now, obviously, the plot of this book is utterly absurd, which is, I believe, kind of the point. I mean, it starts with Kylie and Max getting partnered up for a lame assignment on the second to last day of school. Yeah right. Then, there's the whole chasing a mugger and ending up in a truck full of stolen goods headed for Mexico and getting stuck across the border without passports thing. If you can't look past the impossibilities, the book will be a struggle. Just embrace the crazy and enjoy the crazy tableaux in front of you.
Kramer and Thomas chose to write this in multiple first person points of view, which, of course, can be your best friend or your worst enemy. In this case, I think the story would have been much stronger told in a different way, either from just Kylie's perspective or perhaps third person limited. I just didn't feel like any of the characters had strong enough personalities to pull it off. Characterization is not something this novel is about, and it shows. Kylie's narration is the strongest, and, thankfully, the most frequent.
The narration of the three characters that weren't Kylie or Max really bothered me. Lily is a witch. There's no getting past that. I kept expecting her to be redeemed in some way, and, sure, she does eventually show a glimmer of humanity, but she's really just a vain, selfish girl. Will, Kylie's gay best friend, should have been my favorite character; I love me some sassy gay friends. Unfortunately, I found him totally obnoxious, just so incredibly rude and over the top.
Worst of all, though, I'm sad to say, were the chapter's from Jake's perspective. Kylie's brother Jake has Asperger's and she has been very focused on his care, this crazy weekend her first chance to really cut loose. I have nothing against Jake, but he just didn't really belong in the narration, given that he wasn't part of the crazy Mexico adventure. His narration added nothing. My bet? His sections were added in an attempt to give the novel depth. Well, it didn't work. We all know what this book is for, and it's best to let it be. Every book doesn't need to be serious.
The relationships didn't hold true for me, either, as a result of the whole not feeling the characters difficulty. I did like the way Kylie and Will would communicate in movie quotes, but still didn't really feel their friendship. In both the friendships and the romantic relationships, it felt like everything relied on the narrators telling the reader how much Kylie and Will watch out for each other or how both Kylie and Max are falling in epic love in this one crazy day. Don't tell me; make me feel it.
What I did like were the themes of being yourself, going for what you want, and giving people a chance to surprise you. These aren't new themes, but I still appreciated their treatment here, particularly the latter, even if it was slightly heavy-handed. Pretty much everyone comes to realize through the course of their adventures that people have more to them than their social clique would suggest. Yeah, not mind-blowing, but, despite how much I know better than to pigeonhole people, I totally am still shocked to find that some people I'd marked down as assholes can turn out to be rather marvelous. Plus, sometimes we make our social isolation in high school without realizing it; I sure did, and I was totally blindsided by that revelation in college.
Listen, I know I sound hyper-critical, but this was a fun read. As much as I rolled my eyes, I was very much entertained. I do think it would have made a better movie, but it's got some laughs and lots of action. It's a bit long for the kind of book it is, but not a struggle to get through. If you love movies like The Hangover and Knocked Up, this book was written for you.