Literally by Lucy Keating

Literally by Lucy KeatingLiterally by Lucy Keating
Published by HarperTeen
Published on 11 April 2017
Genres: Fantasy, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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RRP: $16.99

A girl realizes her life is being written for her in this unique, smart love story that is Stranger Than Fiction for fans of Stephanie Perkins.
Annabelle’s life has always been Perfect with a capital P. Then bestselling young adult author Lucy Keating announces that she’s writing a new novel—and Annabelle is the heroine.
It turns out, Annabelle is a character that Lucy Keating created. And Lucy has a plan for her.
But Annabelle doesn’t want to live a life where everything she does is already plotted out. Will she find a way to write her own story—or will Lucy Keating have the last word?
The real Lucy Keating’s delightful contemporary romance blurs the line between reality and fiction, and is the perfect follow-up for readers who loved her debut Dreamology, which SLJ called, “a sweet, quirky romance with appealing characters.”

In Literally, main character Annabelle finds that an author named Lucy Keating (also the author of the book) is literally writing her life, and fights back.

I will use Lucy for the in-book author and Keating for the real-life author.

So this book. This book was weird. The author, Lucy Keating, wrote a (clearly) fictionalised version of herself into the novel, as the in-book author of the novel about Annabelle. It was a very strange and very brave decision, since Lucy ended up being the main antagonist.

I’m not rating this 3 stars just because it’s weird, though. I think originality and expression should be encouraged and celebrated. Literally (lol) self-inserting oneself shamelessly into the novel? Genius. I’m just not sure I actually liked it, or that it achieved anything. It’s really awkward that Keating wrote her fictional self to be super successful, at least a specific commercial version of successful. She had published like 6 New York Times bestsellers and was having a movie made of one of them, which I guess is like the pinnacle of success? Are you even a successful YA author if you haven’t had a movie made? But the real Keating only had 2 books published (and Literally was the second one, so at the time she only had 1 book published), so it was so super weird to read about her multiple bestseller status and movie deal. Talk about author self-insertion! It made me kind of embarrassed to be reading about this super successful fictionalised version of the author. Maybe creating a whole different character as the in-book author wouldn’t make me so uncomfortable, but then again, it wouldn’t be as interesting.

I had so many unanswered questions about the whole in-book author writing Annabelle’s life, too. Why did in-book Lucy set up meeting Annabelle, what did she hope to gain from that? Why was Annabelle’s becoming self-aware important to Lucy, because that was never explored? Did Lucy meet other characters from her other six NYT bestsellers, could she only meet them during drafting? Was the in-book Lucy really that successful or did she use their weird power to control the world around her to make it that way? Why did she use this incredible power to literally (lol) change the world to mess with one teenager’s perfect life instead of doing something useful like eradicating world hunger? Did she step into Annabelle’s book world or was it more like Stranger Than Fiction where both the character and the writer were based in the real world, the writer just had a weird power over the character?

Also, which version of that is creepier?

The love triangle was forced. Which is obvious, because the in-book author was trying to force Annabelle to love Will, but Elliot kept pushing his way in. So even saying it felt forced is weird, because that’s the real author’s intention. However, Elliot was literally a jerk-ass who was mean to Annabelle, and just writing about physical attraction does not equal love. They literally (lol) had nothing in common except for this one band they both liked, and Elliot didn’t even know Annabelle liked the band until after the book had started. Meanwhile, Will was literally (lol) perfect for Annabelle (because he was written to be), yet she didn’t love him either. And that’s only because real-life Keating wanted Annabelle to love Elliot, even though the in-book author wanted Annabelle to love Will. It’s so weird that the book author wanted one thing and the real author wanted the other thing, and unfortunately I didn’t buy either of them. It almost felt like Annabelle rejected Will just because in-book Lucy wanted them to be together, to make Annabelle happy by giving her the ‘perfect’ (for her) boy. I don’t understand why Annabelle would shoot herself in the foot like that, and I blame the real author Keating.

Despite my criticism, the book was short and fast paced, which meant I could read it fairly quickly, and I have to admit that I think that contributes to much of why I did enjoy it. Keating didn’t draw anything out for the sake of a higher word count, there were no boring parts and everything moved along quickly, which I enjoyed. There were definitely under-developed and under-utilised characters, however I don’t think this is a detriment when the book is also the book Lucy is writing, and that’s a first draft so… kinda feels a bit cheaty but whatever.

I just want to point out that it’s 2022 and I am reviewing an ARC of this book I received from Edelweiss in 2016 in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. It’s been a long time coming, with other review books getting prioritised over this one, the actions of which I regret. I’m working through my old ARCs because I feel bad for never getting to them. 

Nemo
Nemo

About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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