To Hell With Fate by Kevin J. Cunningham
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (210 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewes by Astilbe
Young love is a myth.
It’s something we’re conditioned to expect by movies and stories. It’s something we all wanted but could never find. And even when we get older and know the truth, we still wish, just a little, that we had it.
When two young cousins find themselves bored to tears at a family funeral, they find another cousin willing to tell them a little story about his young love: how a simple Valentine’s Day gift from a mini-mart became one of the best he’d ever given.
It’s a fine story on its own, but as the girls dig deeper, they find themselves enveloped in a longer saga, told one story at a time. One about the difference between a crush and love. One that challenges their notions of fate and perfection. One about how our own worst enemies can be ourselves, and how in the end, we’re all just a little messed up.
“Stories are just ways people lie to each other,” Samantha said. “They only tell the best thing about themselves and leave off the truths that make people not like them in real life.” As cynical as Samantha is I must agree with her here. Most of us do spin the truth – intentionally or unintentionally – in order to make ourselves look better. The question is, what happens when we stop spinning and start revealing our most tender secrets to those we trust to be gentle with them?
Samantha is hovering between the innocence of childhood and the stark realities of growing up. Her impromptu rants about Valentine’s Day reveal a young adult who has no interest in sentimentality. She knows a white lie when she sees one and has already figured out that airbrushed advertisements are not an accurate reflection of life. Of course, like many thirteen year olds she hasn’t figured out how to communicate this politely yet. I liked her willingness to test social boundaries, though, as nothing Samantha says or does is intended to hurt anyone. She’s simply trying to figure out what kind of woman she will become and is accidentally stepping on a few toes in the meantime.
The secondary characters were so well developed they could have almost carried the plot without Samantha’s presence. Joseph’s playful sense of humor and willingness to do almost anything to keep the peace quickly cemented him as one of my favourite extended family members I wasn’t sure what to make of Jessie’s unfailing naivety at first but the personality differences between her and Samantha ended up revealing much more about both of them than we would have known otherwise.
The only thing I didn’t understand about this story is why someone as jaded as Samantha would be initially interested in her cousin’s stories. Joseph is full of wisdom and knows how to keep his audience’s attention once he has it but I was skeptical that even someone as talented as him could capture the imagination of a surly teenager who isn’t keen on connecting with relatives she barely knows.
To Hell With Fate was a delightful read and the perfect book for anyone who has ever had conflicting emotions about their family of origin or sat in the corner wondering how they ended up with such a hodgepodge of well meaning (if overbearing) relations.