This review will contain spoilers (as usual).
This is so much more than just a book about a LGBT+ character, before I even begin to try and review this novel. It’s way more than that – it’s multi faceted and well written and simply amazing. It’s got so many layers to it, but I chose to include it in my collection of LGBT book reviews because the journey that Alix goes on during the story is important and is true to real life LGBT+ teenagers.
I read this so quickly. I didn’t look up to check the time, but it must have been an hour at most. I’m a fast reader, especially when I find a book like this, and I basically inhaled the pages.
Unboxed centres around a group of five friends – Alix, Zara, Ben, Millie and Dean. When they were all thirteen, they decided to create a time capsule, hiding their favourite memories from a summer spent together inside.
We meet them for the first time five years later, four eighteen year olds with a significant gap in their group. Millie died of cancer, and the conflictions in each character’s mind as they realise how much they missed their friend was touching and heartbreaking.
They’ve spent five years barely talking – apart from Alix to Millie, who has been convinced by the latter to bring their group together again and reopen the time capsule, something which is a lot more poignant in the wake of Millie’s death. They read everything that she’s written to them in the knowledge that she’s about to die, and find out more about themselves than they ever had done before.
People say that your true friends are your oldest ones, which this book sticks to. Especially in the wake of Zara waking up and seeing that her boyfriend is a total arsehole, it proves that you know when you’ve made a friend for life. For me, it feels as if Millie was a pivotal moment for them all, and the fact that she wasn’t there with them made them all a lot closer together and willing to forgive one another for spending so much time not talking.
Alix is the main character, in a way, although the other three friends play important roles, and are also main focuses. But we see the story through Alix’s eyes, and we see her internal struggle to decide whether or not to come out to her friends. After all, she hasn’t seen these people in years. Will they accept her?
Of course, they do, which was such an amazing moment even to read, and Pratt’s way of writing made me feel like I was really there with them, sitting in a circle reading out a letter that my younger self had written. Also: tears were shed on my part.
Ben’s a different person altogether – he seems to be quite likeable, living in London, with friends plastered all over his instagram. As Alix states: ‘Ben and I never had much in common’. That might be why I really like him as a character, though? He’s so normal and human, every teenage boy, the kind of guy that I’d sit next to in my history class and laugh with. There’s heartbreak with him too, though, as we find out that he meant to ask Millie out on a date to the cinema, but was distracted by being told that he was moving to London.
Zara’s a popular, preppy, pretty girl, the kind of person that I’d look up to and wish to date whilst knowing that she was entirely out of my league. She wears too much makeup when only mascara would do, and she has a boyfriend that’s a rich twat muffin. She goes through so many personal growth in the matter of hours that this book takes place in – she stands up for herself against Ashish Dutta, her boyfriend, and admits that she always felt like a third wheel to Millie and Alix’s friendship. She was maybe my favourite character of them all, in a way. A reminder that there’s more to people than what they let you see.
Dean, on the other hand, is intimidating and knows exactly what he’s doing. He wanted to join the army, but willingly took the public blame for something that his brother did. His father is… not good, but his friends are truly supportive and knowing of this, and do their best to make his time outside his home worth living for. Dean is another amazing person, a quintessential ‘tough guy’, who’s actually vulnerable like the rest of us. Alix also mentions that she thinks he knows her secret, by the looks he gives her, so in a way he’s a massive reason for her finding the courage to come out to the entire group.
Finally, Millie. Making an effort to keep up with the group, even after they drifted apart. She feels like someone I’d love and hate to lose, someone that I would love to be friends with myself. The sudden knowledge that she had cancer and died is one that hits home, especially if you’ve worried about losing your friends yourself. But she’s clever, and truly lovely, and she makes sure that her death is a way for the rest of the group to meet up and become close again, even if it’s partially to do with the echo that her death left. She leaves a letter for them, in the box, written just before she died, and that brought on yet more tears. It’s just… Heartbreaking, for want of a better word, even though she’s determinedly cheerful.
This book starts with Alix turning down the offer of her girlfriend’s support, saying that she wants to do it on her own, but also partially because that would mean coming out to them the second they all met up. But at the end, she willingly asks Faith for a lift home for all of them after Ash storms off to be an arse, which is the final word on how far she’s come in little more than a few hours. So much can happen in a short space of time, and this way of tying in the beginning of the story to the end perfectly illustrated this.
The copy of this book that I found in my local library (although I’m asking for a copy of this and Pratt’s other YA novel that I know of; Trouble for Christmas, for sure), is also immensely readable. It’s printed in a dyslexia friendly font, as it says inside, and the pages are slightly yellow coloured to lower the harshness in contrast between the black and the white of normal books. So there you go, that’s another two reasons to read it.
It also smells divine, because it’s a brand new book with a shiny cover and amazing artwork. I looked at it, I saw the cover, then the recommendation from Holly Bourne (who I would 100% marry in a heartbeat), and immediately decided that I was going to risk breaking my bag.
In all, it’s a yes from me. YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. I URGE YOU TO READ THIS BOOK. It’s beautiful, and heartwarming, but will also make you sob aloud. I kind of don’t want to give it back.
Also, Non Pratt is now 500% my new role model. I want to write like her. I want to be this amazing.
Follow Non Pratt on Twitter @NonPratt, and read her books. Read them all.