Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger
An amazon.ca search resulted in this amazing find! In trying to expand on my authors of MM fiction, Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger popped up; with good reviews and an interesting plot line, it was difficult to pass up. In actuality, this novel turned out to be the sweetest novel that I have ever read; so much so that I felt the need to make a new shelf on my Goodreads profile because of it: sweetest-stories-ever-read.
In 1978, during their senior year of high school, Craig and Travis meet and subsequently fall in love. What makes this sweet and relatable is that these two are complete opposites and two individuals that one would not think could be together in a relationship: Craig is the school jock and hero of his high school’s sports teams, he is not the best academically and doesn’t seem too concerned about it; Travis, on the other hand, is the school nerd, and possibly the most bullied of all students in the high school. He also loves (and lives) musicals. During the high school production of Brigadoon (which becomes their play), Travis and Craig fall in love. Once graduated, though, they go to separate schools and slowly lose touch with one another; they grow up, get jobs, meet new people and build new relationships. Travis comes to realize that Craig will be his one and only love, and sets off on a journey, twenty years later, to get him back. What ensues is a hilarious, tender and heart wrenching journey to true love.
When I say hilarious, tender and heart wrenching, I mean it literally. This has to be the only book that had me laughing out loud, smiling until it hurt, crying hysterically, and yelling “NO, WHY??” out loud. Kluger was able to bring out all your emotions, at times, making the reader feel quite vulnerable.
What makes this novel even more interesting is the method in which it is told. Almost Like Being in Love is an epistolary novel, a novel that is told through different documents. In Kluger’s story, the love story of Travis and Craig is told through seemingly random diary entries, newspaper clippings, emails, lists, office memos, student essays (as Travis is a pretty crazy history teacher), and blog postings by numerous different people. This is the first completely epistolary novel that I have read, and I have to say that this is a form that can either go horribly wrong, or amazingly right. Despite being random documents, they still need to be connected enough to tell a story; they also have to be interesting and keep the reader’s attention. It’s a little disconcerting to be reading newspaper clippings and memos, etc. when you think you should be reading a traditional form of story writing. Examples of terrible epistolary efforts come to mind (*cough cough* Fifty Shades anyone!?), and these were not novels written completely in this form. Kluger takes a huge chance with this method, but for Almost Like Being in Love, I believe it is one of the best examples of this form that I will ever read. Not only was I interested in the overall storyline and how it ended, I also wanted to know what was written in each document; I cried because of memos and I laughed over checklists. Once I reached the last page, I was doing both at the same time, but I couldn’t take the smile off my face.
If you’ve ever felt like ‘the one’ got away; if you’ve gone after ‘the one’; or if you simply need a feel-good, true to heart love story, pick up Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger.