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Epistola: Book Reviews, Driving Lessons and... Love? But Who Asked

By Maia Poon

I always find myself writing to you.

In journals that I really hope no one else ever reads, in the Notes app on my phone (again, please no one read those), in my head (especially). To clarify to the strangers reading this, you aren’t God. You’re just like me, really. Lonely hearts pondering questions that will never be answered, self-proclaimed Hopeless Romantics musing mysteries of the universe, you know, the usual. You know who you are.

This is an anthology of Things I Can’t Tell Anyone Because Either They Haven’t Read the Same Books, They Don’t Know the Full Story Which is Too Long to Tell, or We Don’t Talk About Things Like This Anymore.

Unpopular Opinion #1: I hated The Catcher in the Rye when I first started reading it. (Remember how we told each other we’d read it at the same time, along with a couple of other classics? I didn’t wait for you, but I didn’t finish it either.) It was the summer before my junior year, and I had fallen in love for real for the first time, and broken someone else’s heart for the first (and so far, only, I hope!) time. (Is that relevant? Up to you.) I just found Holden Caulfield’s voice so freaking annoying! I didn’t need all this pessimism and complaining in my life. And his extraneousness was almost as yawn-inducing as the descriptions in The Hobbit of the comb and the chair and the mirror and the floor and the wall and the edge where the wall meets the ceiling (I was going to say corner but the hut was round—and that, my friends, is Unpopular Opinion #2). So I gave up midway, but I took the sun-worn copy that had once belonged to my aunt’s classmate (circa. 1986, Sandra Chin, in blue ink) home.

It’s been two years and a half: crazy how I feel so different, yet exactly the same. What’s happened since I put that book down? Well, I could talk about love, but we’ve all read and heard enough about that (I’m single as heck, in case you were wondering). I finished The Catcher in the Rye this past weekend after picking it up right where I left it—and I LOVED IT. Holden is such a dear (I found his voice amusing and easy to read this time), and I am going to treasure this small maroon book until I have to give it back to my aunt (I wonder if Sandra Chin will ever get it back, or if I’ll ever meet her). I felt like the ultimate edgy hipster teen taking my vintage mass edition J.D. Salinger out of my Shakespeare and Company tote bag on the bus. And I really want to go to New York now.

I think it’s this—I’m in my senior year (the later half!), and I really cannot wait to get out of here. I don’t mind school, the people or the courses, but I’m just bored. I would totally hop on a train or in someone’s friend’s car (knowing it was safe) and get the heck away from here… knowing that I would come home eventually. At the back of my mind, I know I’m going to miss high school, home, most of my friends, and even my teachers, even as I’m complaining about the monotonicity that is my urban high-schooler routine (of course I’ll miss my family, just let me be). But I just want to see the stars in another town or city, okay? Another paradox in this enigma that is Coming of Age, or is it irony?

When I write a novel, I want it to be this easy. Is this how J.D. Salinger wrote, from his own perspective, disguising his voice as Holden? What I really want to write is a book that will make people feel as much as I felt when I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Now that is a true literary masterpiece. (Shut up about the movie, I haven’t seen it yet, so wait until the next Same Faces edition!) I’m glad I read it this year because I don’t think I would’ve related as much to it any other time. I’m in Grade 12 with pretty much all the same people from freshman year, but I’ve found a new best friend (your other best friends are still my best friends too, don’t worry). And Perks is the definition of nostalgia and growing up and missing childhood and racing down hills and playing your music and feeling the wind through your hair as your friend drives you through a tunnel

I think I’ll have to write a whole other piece about it.

In the meantime, here’s a moment when I felt infinite, brought to you by me rereading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (a beautiful YA novel which also deserves its own review) because my sister (who doesn’t let me call her my best friend) and my new best friend are both reading it right now (because I made them): My dad was giving me a driving lesson—I just realized it was the same day I told you that driving was the only time I didn’t think of you or anything else—but anyway, it’s something I really enjoy, and I think he does too (I’m a weirdo because I find driving calming, but I haven’t driven on any busy roads yet). We usually don’t play any music, and the silence is surprisingly soothing (we’re people of few words in general) but for whatever reason, I remember listening to some soft music that time. It was around 6:00pm, and we were making lazy circles around the empty mall parking lot. He told me, “turn right here,” and I thought he was just giving me regular instructions, but then he told me to stop the car. I didn’t ask why, because I knew. We stared out at the glowing sunset, and I thought to myself, That is the most gorgeous sunset I have ever seen. And it’s not even at a beach. Or I could just be thinking that to myself now, in the aftermath. And then I thought of you because I knew you would have loved it too. But I mostly just enjoyed that moment with my dad. I was calm and awake, and I felt alive, and I knew my dad felt all of those things at that moment too. Then he showed his love in the most fatherly way, by asking me to step out so he could take a picture of me.

Note to self and whoever’s reading this—Things to write about in the meantime:

Feeling infinite (again)

A car plummeting, diving off an unbarred brick wall


I didn’t even really get to the Things I Can’t Tell Anyone Because They Don’t Know the Full Story, but I touched on them. It’s been a while, so for now, this is what’s been new in my life. Stay frickin’ infinite, happy. You’re the best, but you’d be even better if you read Perks. Go read it.

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