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Don’t You Forget About Me

April 2, 2011

Don’t You Forget About Me

by Jancee Dunn

Do you remember your high school years? If so, were you one of the popular crowd or one of the smart kids? Were you a cheerleader or did you play in the band? Did you blaze new trends? Or did you do your very best to blend in with the crowd? If you could revisit that time in your life, would you? These are the themes in this very funny and relatable book.

If you are anything like me you try your very best to block out any and all memories of high school. Those four years were quite possibly the four worst years of my life. Could I have been any nerdier? Could I have been any more awkward looking? I was too tall, too thin, my hair was (is) uncontrollable, I had braces, and absolutely no self-confidence. While I had friends I can’t say that any of them were really good friends. We were just a bunch of girls who sat together at lunch so we didn’t have to sit alone. Safety in numbers, right? And after graduation – one of the best days of my life – we parted ways without ever really looking back.

In Jancee Dunn’s Don’t You Forget About Me, protagonist Lillian Curtis happily “hurtles backward” into her high school years after being blindsided by her husband’s request for a divorce. Unlike me and probably most of the rest of the world, Lillian recalls her teen years as some of her happiest and is quickly agreeable to turning back the clock. So at 38-years-old Lillian takes a leave of absence from her job as a producer in New York City to return to her parent’s home in New Jersey to lick her wounds and reassess her life choices. Her return also happens to coincide with her twenty-year high school reunion.

Upon her return to New Jersey, Lillian reverts back into her former life of being on the cusp of her friends’ popular clique. She drives too fast, blasts mixed tapes of 80’s songs, reads old notes she saved in her dresser drawer, and betrays her non-popular friend Dawn (again). She also falls back into an old relationship with ex-boyfriend Christian, and allows him to once again call all the shots in their relationship.

Initially Lillian was not a very likeable character. One would assume that a 38-year-old TV producer would know a whole lot more about how to treat people. But unlike a Mean Girl character Lillian didn’t mean to be a horrible person. The problem was that in her efforts to be more appealing to her friends and ex-boyfriend, she was rather harsh to those she deemed at the low-end of the totem pole. Having been at the bottom of that pole at one point in my life, my heart went out to Dawn and to some of the other characters that Lillian treated quite terribly (I won’t go into more detail because I don’t want to give too much away). I was glad that at one point in the book Dawn found the courage to stand up for herself. One could say I was living vicariously through Dawn instead of through Lillian, as I’m sure the author would prefer!

After some deep discussion with her older sister Ginny, and revelations of forgotten memories, Lillian becomes much more relatable and finally likeable. She realizes her past didn’t exactly play out the way she thought it had. She realizes that some things just aren’t worth going back to. She also realizes that while being a grown up is hard, it is a much better alternative to the horrible process of trying to be someone you aren’t.

The verdict? I loved this book and finished it in just a couple of days. The references to the 80’s were spot on and reminded me of my own teen years. Remember John Hughes’ movies? What about Wham! and tape recorders? Do you also recall trying to fit in at any cost? Do you remember spending an insane amount of time worrying about what everyone thought of you? This book is sort of a bittersweet look back at things I loved (could count them on one hand) and hated most about high school, which I’m sure many others can relate to. I highly recommend this book for a good laugh and maybe some not-so-good reminders of the past. I look forward to reading the author’s other books as well.

Is there anyone else out there who would sooner shave their head than relive those tedious years?

Since this review was copied from my original blog, I am pasting relevant comments below:

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