All The Books I Can Read

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Review: It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood

on January 13, 2020

It Sounded Better In My Head 
Nina Kenwood
Text Publishing
2019, 304p
Personal purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

When her parents announce their impending separation, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting or at least mildly upset. And now that Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, have fallen in love, she’s feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward.

Where does she fit in now? And what has happened to the version of her life that played out like a TV show—with just the right amount of banter, pining and meaningful looks?

Nothing is going according to plan.

But then an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

It Sounded Better in My Head is a tender, funny and joyful novel about longing, confusion, feeling left out and finding out what really matters.

I heard a lot about this book when it was released last year – but I never really had time to fit it in my reading schedule! However I came across a copy when I was away on holidays and ended up snatching it up. It was one of the first books I read of the new year at the urging of a friend of mine, who wanted to see what I thought about it and I’m so glad I did because I really enjoyed this.

It Sounded Better In My Head was the winner of the 2018 Text Prize for YA and Children’s Writing (an award for an unpublished manuscript) and the story revolves around Natalie, an only child who has just finished her year 12 exams. She and her parents are having Christmas Day when they tell her that they are separating, and that this isn’t just a spur of the moment decision. It’s something they’ve been sitting on for 10 months, waiting until she’d finished her schooling to drop it. Look, if they waited that long, I’m sure they could’ve waited a bit longer, rather than drop it on her on that particular day of all days. Natalia ie blindsided – everything in her life is already changing. School is finished, she’s in that limbo between exams and university acceptances and unlike her two best friends, Natalie isn’t even sure what she wants to do with her life. Now everything at home will be changing too.

As well as examining Natalie’s changing home life, it’s also a study in friendship. Natalie has two best friends, Zach and Lucy. It’s been the three of them for many years but now Zach and Lucy are also dating, creating a twosome plus Natalie which at times leaves her feeling left out and awkward. They try to still include her, make things as much the same as they can but it’s still different and it’s just another way in which Natalie feels she’s been left behind…until she ends up getting closer to Zach’s older brother Alex.

Natalie reminds me a lot of myself at the same age. She doesn’t really like going to parties and finds social interaction difficult – she doesn’t have the knack of making conversation with people she doesn’t know. She also suffers from crippling self esteem problems stemming from incredibly severe acne in her younger teenage years. The sort that leaves deep scarring and isn’t just confined to her face. She had to see a dermatologist and take strong medication in order to be able to manage it. Natalie I think, still looks in the mirror and sees that girl covered in cystic acne, even though her skin is clear now. She’s deeply uncomfortable with herself at times, but then she’ll do something like go to a party where she doesn’t know anyone, as if trying to escape that part of herself.

I really liked Natalie’s voice, she’s so relatable and likeable and I enjoyed the way she and Alex made a connection and the difficulties that got in the way of their evolving relationship. Although Natalie has spent a lot of time at Zach’s, she doesn’t really know Alex as such. She has this idea of him in the beginning as this older, super confident ladies man with a cool job. They seem opposites and quite honestly, like Alex is way out of Natalie’s comfort zone in terms of experience and lifestyle. But the more Natalie gets to know him, the more Alex is kind of recalibrated as a character until you realise that he has insecurities and fears just like everyone else and he is definitely not perfect. In fact Alex has messed up pretty considerably in his past, which is something he chooses to confess to her, in order for them to go into this new relationship without any secrets. Natalie must then decide what to do with the information Alex provides to her as everything starts imploding all around them, particularly with Zach and his difficulty accepting her and Alex as a potential couple.

I found this clever and engaging with a really wonderful main character. It examined different relationships in such genuine and realistic ways – Natalie and her parents as she navigates their separation, Natalie and their friends as they face the next stage of their lives after school and the uncertainty that that brings and also Natalie and dating as she discovers her feelings for Alex and tries to balance wanting a deeper relationship with her own fears and anxieties about what that means. This solid debut has definitely cemented Nina Kenwood as a YA author to watch out for and I can’t wait to read her next novel.


Book #3 of 2020

It Sounded Better In My Head is book #1 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020

4 responses to “Review: It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood

  1. Great review! I’m excited to read this one :)))

  2. I’ve seen rave reviews for this one, seems like you agree.

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