This was an incredibly intense novel, but I do think it is one you should pick up if you feel like you can handle the subject matter. Imagine Us Happy deals with a toxic relationship between two people who are going through their own issues, and it was hard to read at times. Though I just said that it was a difficult book to read at times, Yu’s writing style was so smooth and readable, and I, therefore, binged it in a matter of hours on a school day, because I just couldn’t put it down.
Something I really appreciated in this novel is that Yu doesn’t villainize either Stella nor Kevin, but presents them as two people who are going through their individual problems and are ultimately not good for each other. She develops both Stella and Kevin as characters very well, so I personally felt that I understood them both fairly well.
I really enjoyed the side characters, in particular, Stella’s friends Katie and Lin. I appreciated how they subverted the typical tropes that they seemed to initially follow (Katie being the sociable party girl, and Lin being your Ivy-aiming overachiever), especially with Lin, who was an Asian character. I myself found many things I had in common with Lin, which was super fun to see!
It has a whole lot of good here, too. I feel like Yu is one of those writers who genuinely gets teenagers and high school, and this reflected in how high school was written as a whole. And there is a platonic relationship between a guy and a girl, as well as a healthy relationship in this book, which I thought provided EXCELLENT contrast especially compared to Stella and Kevin’s relationship.
As much as I think this was phenomenal, there were a couple of things that did give I do feel the ending was a bit abrupt, which really annoyed me because I thought that Yu was going to close it up a bit better but I guess not?
Another thing that may cause some controversy and/or disagreement with this book: the timeline. While I personally believe the timeline was done well, it did get confusing at times? The timeline was chronological, for the most part, but it was a non-linear sort of chronological. Like, we would be reading about Stella in October, and then it would jump to February and then would jump back to December? It was probably my biggest gripe about the whole novel, and it did really jar me and lose me at parts, too.
This was such a simultaneously important and heartbreaking novel that I think will do so much good for teens, especially those who have gone through abusive and/or toxic relationships. Imagine Us Happy is one of those novels that you only really feel the whole intensity of it when you read its final pages, and what a ride it was. I would definitely recommend this as a whole though.
Have you read Imagine Us Happy, or any works by Jennifer Yu? Are you interested in this book? I would love to know in the comments.