Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that's impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father's unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn't take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect? In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time. But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone's heart survive? (Synopsis from Goodreads)
It's no secret that I love Keren David's books (see here and here) - I don't think there's any other author that nails the British teenage experience quite like she does. Although I've haven't reviewed it here, her previous book Salvage manages to balance realistic characters, engaging plot and heart-rending issues, something that I imagine is far trickier than it looks. I hate describing reads as 'issue' books, because it somehow feels like a disparaging comment rather than a compliment, with an automatic assumption that for a book to deal with tough or diverse issues, it has to sacrifice something in terms of plot or character. Ok, this has been true of some books but as This is Not a Love Story shows, just as Salvage did, it's more than possible to write about issues without sacrificing anything at all.
This where the similarities with Salvage end, however. Whereas that previous book put me through the emotional ringer by confronting some of the darker parts of society, This is Not a Love Story beams positivity and is one of the most refreshing books I've read in a long time. In fact, I can't think of anything it really falls into the same bracket as at all. Kitty's optimistic outlook on life is infectious and seeps through every page. I adored Kitty, but then I adored Theo and Ethan too - can't actually choose between them and wouldn't want to! This is the most realistic depiction of modern teens I've read in a long time - they're funny, emotional, they don't always have all the answers and they make mistakes, but then they move on. Their small expat community reminded me a lot of my gap year interactions many moons ago - you arrive in a new place, you fall in with a group and you get along with people no matter what your differences.
This is the first YA book I've read about Judaism and I loved the way it was presented as both a uniting force and common ground between Kitty and Theo, but also showed how religion isn't one dimensional - their upbringings had more differences than they did similarities and this connection wasn't the be all and end for them. Also, a shout out to the structure of the story - the added element of mystery ensured this a proper, bonefide page turner.
So whereas This is Not a Love Story isn't a love story (or is it?...), this review definitely is - a love story between woman and book (imagine a heart emoji right here - I don't how to do one on my desktop, sorry).