A culturally and politically shaped memory lane

November Surprise - Laurel Osterkamp

My Initial Reaction…

November Surprise was so much fun! In so many ways it was like a walk through memory lane, vis-a-vis the major political moment of the last 2o years and some great culture references I couldn’t help but smile at as I remembered them. Lots of fun!


The Characters…

November Surprise is one of the few books I really enjoyed that I didn’t love the main character. I liked Lucy, most of the time. She’s this incredibly driven, politically obsessive, nerd. I’m able to relate to her on all three of those levels. She’s also very insecure, in a way that really bothered me. Sometimes it was so believable and I felt for her. Early on the book she has these encounters with a bully, Reggie, and the way he teased her and bullied her was both believable and sometimes a little heartbreaking. At other times, her reactions to the bully just did not fit. And Lucy holds on to this bullied, insecure girl persona throughout her entire life. Again sometimes this was good, at other times it was bad. There’s something to love about flawed characters, but sometimes Lucy just went a little too far and it was the difference of me liking her and loving her. I often ask myself if I would like to know my main characters and be friends with them. Lucy would be an ok person to know, but I don’t think we’d be good friends. Probably just acquaintances.


November Surprises involves a lot of little flashes of time and one of the things I felt that helped accomplish really well is showing you the changing nature of friendships over the long durée. Lucy has boyfriends come and go and come again. She also friends come and go. And then there’s those friends that you’ll never lose. No matter how stupid you or they act, you can’t get rid of them. And you don’t want to, because it would be like losing your right arm. That’s Jack and Sharon. I loved these two. They were great friends, even if they had fights and even if they went through periods where they weren’t talking that much. Sometimes life gets in the way, but when it’s time, you can just pick up where you left of with these kinds of friends.


The Story…

I think I had lots of really nerdy excited moments while reading November Surprise. I used to be a bit of political junkie, not quite to the extent that Lucy is, but I still could remember 90% of these moments and my reactions to them. A few of them were a bit before I started caring, but I certainly remember Bush breaking his “No New Taxes” promises and rejoicing about what it meant for Clinton. And the Clinton scandal isn’t one we’ll ever forget is it? And the Florida disaster that got Bush elected? oops, I was seriously going to try getting political, but I guess that last statement shows where I stand. I guess it’s probably a good thing to get out there though – Lucy is a Democrat and she has a seriously democratic view of events. That totally worked for me, because that’s pretty much the view I have of them too. I’m not sure what it would feel like to read the book if you had a Republican mindset. Maybe you’d just hate Lucy? Maybe not. She has Republican friends and it works, so maybe you’d get past that in her too.


I do not, however, think it’s essential to have a political mindset to enjoy November Surprise. Yet, the political moments make up a huge part of the book. But they really have more to do with how Lucy feels and responds to them, than your own personal feelings. Not to mention all the other cultural references. I got excited seeing bands I’d forgotten about mentioned, like U2. Or mentions to things like VHS tapes, Dunkaroos, and scrunchies. Those references made November Surprise so much fun.


November Surprise is kind of a hard book for me to put a label on in terms of genre. I want to call it a Romance, because a big part of her life moving forward has to do with her trying to fall in love. But in the scope of the book, the romance was light. I felt like November Surprise was more about just growing up and the things we do and the decisions we make and the things that are important to us as we go, shaping who we become. And you get pretty invested in who Lucy will become, with her romantic life being part of that. Shaping her as a person, was much more important.



Concluding Sentiments…

Anyone late 20s or older will have a lot of fun with November Surprise, as it takes you down a culturally and politically shaped memory lane. A book about friendship and growing up, sure to bring a smile to your face.

Source: http://fantasyismorefun.com/2013/11/november-surprise-laurel-osterkamp-coyer-short-review.html