Title: The Idiot
Author: Elif Batuman
Genre: Literary Fiction, YA, coming of age
Is this Part of a series? No.
Publish Date: March 14th, 2017
I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review from First to Read. I am, as always, grateful for this opportunity.
It is 1995, 19 year old Selin’s first year at Harvard. No longer one of the strongest in her sets, she has difficulty trying to set herself apart from the other students. Taking courses in things she has never heard of, embracing thought process that are alien to her, and trying to understand her new world; Selin is a sweet and interesting voice for all the youth trying to both stand out and fit in. There are roommates and friends, email and love interests. Bars and tutoring sessions, treks to Hungary that begin as instructional and end up leaving her feeling like a guest on vacation.
In all of this there is a book from her Russian class, Nina in Siberia, which she connects to and is intrigued by. As someone that feels that books, and words, have real meaning she always looks for the “true meaning” behind a book. It is important to her to understand it on a deep level. This brings us to the other constant in the book, her emails with Ivan from Russian class. Quickly, existential conversations about books, life, atoms and clowns, drag Selin deeper and deeper into love/obsession with Ivan. He says he feels the same to an extent, but he has a girlfriend that he “only sometimes loves”. Through the story, Selin tries to get a hold of her feelings, to understand what is going on. Ivan continues to call, to spend time with her simply because he likes to.
I loved the flow of this book, and the voice of Selin. I identified with her in many ways, seeing my younger self in many of her fears and insecurities. I loved the cast of characters, though felt like some- Ivan, Svetlana and her mother- could have been fleshed out a bit more. This did not hamper my enjoyment of each of Selin’s new discoveries and adventures. There were times where I was angry at Selin, feeling like she let Ivan take advantage of her feelings…. And times where I was furious at Ivan for leading her on. I can remember being that young, though, and am not sure it was intentional- he did care for her I think, and wanted a friendship. At the same time knowing someone thinks that much of you is slightly intoxicating. I don’t know if I would label this as first love, but it is a first crush; and that is an important part of growing up. I feel like many teens will feel the pull of these characters. Five stars!
On the adult content scale, there is drinking and some substance abuse. There’s also light language. It’s all fairly mild. I give it a four.
The book comes out 3-14-17. I recommend it for teens, especially those going to college.
Link to book: