The Fragile Ordinary is a heartbreaking coming-of-age story about sixteen year old Comet, a girl that despite having an extraordinary name wants nothing more than to remain in the background.
“No matter what was happening in my life, in my room, I had over eight hundred worlds to disappear into, and over a thousand on my e-reader on my nightstand.”
Meet Comet, the sixteen year old bookish daughter to indifferent and inattentive parents. She wants to make herself invisible, or perhaps give a reason for feeling invisible, and escapes her own reality into the world of books. Her home life broke my heart into pieces, and I can relate to her quite a bit. Some would classify this as a romance, but I don’t see the romance as the main driver of this story.
The voice of the book (first person POV) is definitely that of a sixteen year old girl, and the first 20% or so of the book was painful for me to read: it felt awkward, forced, and uncomfortable. The choices and actions Comet made early on made me cringe, but I cannot fault her for her early actions as over the course of the book she grew up a lot. As an adult that reads YA on occasion, I understand that I am not the target audience and would never fault a book for catering to the YA reader. However, I did feel like I was being told about a lot of stuff, mostly being caught up on backstory as Comet recalled them for the reader, rather than being shown and it felt to me a bit like a mashing of experiences that didn’t really gel. I find that first person narration works best with stories that are developing, and it felt like there was a whole lot of backstory dumped all at once for the first 20% or so of the book. I considered not continuing with the book because it didn’t seem that the writing style was for me, but I am so glad that I stuck with it because interestingly, I found my experience reading the first third of the book in stark contrast to the latter two-thirds. It was almost as if it were written separately. This could have been because of the massive info dump at the beginning, but the story really pulled me in around 25% or so.
While this is a character-driven story , I found myself frustrated with most of them a large amount of the time. Many of the characters are harboring a painful past that causes them to act out, but most of it seemed to be for the purpose of Comet’s development. I really only liked Comet and Tobias as characters, but their relationship for me didn’t quite sit right either. It was like insta-love and not at the same time, and that is just a trope I am not overly fond of in fiction. Don’t get me wrong: I adored Tobias. I just didn’t quite buy the development of their relationship or feelings.
I really enjoyed that snippets of Comet’s poetry began each of the chapters in the book, it was a nice touch that really drove home the importance of poetry to Comet, her creative outlet, and a bit into her innermost thoughts. I enjoyed watching Comet come into herself through the course of the book and opening up to those around her.
Despite the book taking a bit of time to find its voice, the pacing is good and I did not ever find myself bored with what I was reading. I did find it odd that only a couple characters spoke with the Scottish ‘accent’ in the book when this is set in Scotland; it seemed an odd choice to me given that everyone but Tobias (who is American) would speak roughly the same way. There was a lack of worldbuilding that unfortunately for me seems to be common in contemporaries, and with this novel much more care is given to the characters and their development. I like character driven novels with descriptions of the city/world they inhabit.
This is a painful coming of age story where Comet begins to find her voice beyond the anonymity of posting her poetry online; in trusting herself; in standing up for herself. In creating your own surrogate family and realizing that life is short. Being a teenager is difficult and I think the overall story depicts the struggles of growing apart from friends as interests and people change. I think that teen readers will likely enjoy this novel about finding the beauty and joy in life’s ordinary.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Harlequin Teen, for providing me an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.