Melanie Batchelor was fourteen years old when she wrote the subject of this month’s review, Remember Me
. Had I not known that, I would’ve filled this review with a thousand praises for her nuanced, accurate characterizations and deceptively simple poems that create a gripping, compelling read.
Remember Me by Melanie Batchelor (Bold Strokes Books, 2014)
Since I am aware of the fact that Batchelor is, in fact, deeply precocious, and possibly one of the most promising young writers of this generation, I will instead fill this review with a thousand praises for her nuanced, accurate characterizations and deceptively simple poems that create a gripping, compelling read.
Batchelor’s novel-in-poems is technically a short read, at 208 pages of poetry. However, I found myself pausing in between each vignette-like piece – sometimes to reflect, sometimes to reread, and sometimes to just catch my breath. The novel moves well, giving us a strobelit view – just enough for the brain to create fluidity from the pieces.
Remember Me’s greatest strength, however, is in its characters. Teenagers in this book talk like real teenagers, act like real teenagers, but most importantly, they feel. These characters don’t just have emotions – they survive them. When we meet protagonist/narrator Jamie Richards, she immediately introduces us to her best friend, Erica – high school poet and foster child, whose expressions are as opaque as the cloud of smoke that surrounds her:
I put the finishing touches on my forest,
inhaling Erica’s distinctive scent,
just as addictive as nicotine
…and who among us has not found ourselves compulsively drawn to someone who seems both emotionally fragile and yet avoids any attempts at vulnerability? Who among us has not spent hours obsessing over the imperceptible “mms” and “ahhs” of someone we desperately want to be close to?
Batchelor, in a word, nails it.
In the face of these agonizingly familiar moments, the plot almost doesn’t matter. Jamie and Erica move through a turbulent summer that culminates in the highest possible agony. For Jamie, who’s already dealing with the recent death of her father, the story functions as half-coming-of-age and half-coming-out.
(Of course, Jamie’s in love with Erica. Of course, they don’t talk about it. Of course, I read through the sexy bits with only a slight cringe – in those moments, it is both easy and impossible to forget that a fourteen year old wrote them. Easy because they’re well-written. Impossible because to do so means admitting a fourteen year old wrote something that turns you on.)
As I finished the book, a slow two hours after I started, I wished that I’d had this book to keep my company in my own adolescence. I would’ve found a small soulmate in Jamie, and (another) literary crush in Erica. Who I’m going to buy it for: my fourteen year old cousin with way too many feelings and not enough patience. Well done, Melanie. Thank you for this book.
Dane Kuttler is a poet, activist and teacher.
Her poetry is often lyrical and narrative, exploring themes of Jewish and queer identities, with a lot of love poems to her grandparents. The most common format for her work is the exploration of a relationship between two people that connects to broader political and social themes.
Dane has featured in coffee shops, living rooms, libraries, back porches and the occasional auditorium, but her favorite venue has always been her first – a dilapidated tree house with sixteen stuffed animals for an audience.
Check our her website for more info.