(This is a personal/highly emotional review of ‘Flipped’ - some spoilers are here, sorry.)
‘Flipped’ by Wendelin Van Draanen
Revisiting old memories of my first love is not an easy topic for me to think about, let alone attempt to write about. Rest assured, I will not be doing that here. Rather, I think a lot about how it felt to fall in love the first time. The amount of sheer ignorance and naivty makes me feel crushed inside. What I agreed to back then because I believed someone else’s words over my own feelings, is absurd. And to now know that it wasn’t love to begin with, well, let’s just say, that sinking feeling is still there sometimes when I think about it.
I am very tempted to say, “If I only knew what I know now back then, maybe I would have…” but no, I resent that phrase because in my mind, it suggests that nothing from back then should have happened. That I should have been sheltered and kept safe away from the mistakes that I made and the lessons I ultimately had to learn to get to where I am now is reprehensible to me. And in that respect, ‘Flipped’ opened up my eyes even further to understanding how far I’ve come from there and how grateful that I did…
I remember reading ‘Flipped’ within the year it was released but it didn’t resonate very strongly with me. I wasn’t in love nor was I even concerned with it. I was too young. I was skeptical, to say the very least at the notion that a book club would be reading young adult fiction (I left that behind me a long time ago) but I am devoted to reading every book they recommend so I picked up a copy and started reading.
There is everything to be gained from reading this novel. I am convinced that this is probably the most true and witty romantic story out there. It was refreshing to see the first love story from both sides play out and the magic that is Julianna continually took my breath away. I didn’t learn what she learned - how to look beyond the surface before it’s too late - until I had lost a lot.
The families were both represented to their most honest portrayal and at times, it was hard to swallow. But in the honesty and vulnerability is the opportunity to see more than what meets the eye and to grow from it, as our characters do. The amount that they went through and what they went up against are big deals for that age and to see young adults portrayed in such a real light was a joy and eye opener for me.
In that sense, reading the book served as a reflection of who I have come to be and who I want to be and both characters served as perfect looking glasses. Bryce’s change in the end was a triumph that deserves attention. The lengths he went to challenge the things that he held to be true was remarkable. His persistence to show that he wasn’t going to stand by and let something slip by, something he truly believed in, broke my heart. Julianna’s resoluteness to be herself, despite what anyone said or thought, literally brought me to tears and inspired me to do the same, every single day of my life.
I’ve included a picture of a tree that is on my apartment wall. For those who have read and finished the book, I think you know quite well how symbolic this is for the story. I can’t tell if this is a sycamore tree but it’s my tree all the same. It looks a little bare, which is just as many leaf stickers it came with but, I like the bareness. It reminds me that there’s room to grow, there’s more experiences to be had, and many more lessons to be learned. That even a tree that may not look beautiful to one person, is the exact definition of wonder and hope to someone else and looking beyond the surface is the most frightening and life changing things you might do in your life, if you’re brave enough to take the leap.
(I feel that I don’t need to analyze how it was written because I want to somehow describe what the words did for me, how it made me feel, and just how powerful its impact has been in my life. I hope I did it justice.)
Rereading Young Adult fiction years later, when consequently, you find that you are embarking on your own journey of finding “real” love, should be a form of therapy recommended by all therapists and counselors. I have gained so much from picking up this book and indulging in this “real” love story than I have from many other books in recent memory that I have to praise it upon end. Wendelin Van Draanen captures in perfection the tedious emotions, unrelenting ebb and flow of change in growing up, and the precociousness that is Julianna and Bryce. Although they never saw eye to eye till the end of the story, there is a certain magic in being able to relive the details of your first love and as readers, I believe we are privileged to be able to take a back seat and watch as miscommunication, misunderstanding, and certain events lead to an almost irreversible mess for in that chaos is the opportunity to make mistakes, see the lesson to be learned, and ultimately, change for the good of your own heart. Don’t forget that this is love we are talking about and as they say, love always finds a way in the end. Fall in love with what it felt like to fall for someone for the first time; the innocence and wisdom that comes from an unjaded heart should be shared with all those who are still in the pursuit of that special someone to add to their life.