Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo | Rating: ★★★★☆
“I wanted to hide away and write. I wanted to meet characters who would climb up my pen. I wanted to create a completely new world, inventing everyone and everything.”
I’ve owned this novel for some time now and was always skeptical about reading it, since it was very short. That’s a pretty dumb reason, isn’t it? Anyways, afters a bit of procrastinating I finally picked up the novel and found that despite the shortness of the novel, it wasn’t lacking in much. It was quite good, in fact. You may have to read through it a second time to fully slip into the narrators mind, but it is definitely worth the read.
Our story opens with a very catching statement: My youth began when I was twenty-one. It then goes on to tell us of the narrators plans and a little bit of a backstory. Truthfully, I would have loved to hear more of her life before having moved out, but hey — in spite of this wish, the novel really did hold my attention.
As I said earlier, the story itself is short. It is only just under 200 pages long, which means it’s the perfect novel to bring with you to various places to have a quick read handy. So if you’ve got a ride on a train or a plane or find yourself needing something to do while waiting around for something: this is a recommended novel.
It packs a surprising punch of thoughts that will stick around in your mind afterwards. From Fenfang’s ambition in moving to Beijing to seek out a career in acting, to her constant (and rather hilarious) use of the phrase “Heavenly Bastard in the Sky” and finally to her inner thoughts, you’ll find yourself thoroughly interested in living through this characters mind. My copy of the novel even features little black and white photographs to illustrate the locations in which varied plots take place.
My only complaints were that I wanted more of her backstory and more of her relationships with various people. But when do I not want more from a story? I want to absorb every little detail and characteristic in my novels. Little bit selfish though, isn’t it? What I mean is there are many moments throughout the story where we are told things but we don’t see them.
Anyways. We see her interact with her parents very briefly. We know that she was with a man who wasn’t the kindest, most worthy male; we know that she was briefly together with another guy who didn’t really know her and she didn’t really know him. And we also know that she has mostly male friends as opposed to females. We know that one of her male friends, who she hadn’t been dating, fell for her at one point or another and uttered the most important line throughout the story.
"Fenfang, you must take care of your life."
Which ultimately, she needs to do so.
Overall the story was interesting and a good read for its length. With a strong narration and an ambitious female lead, this novel really is worth the buy. Or checkout. There are times when you may feel as though you need to use your imagination to fill in the blanks or skim through earlier pages, but for the most part it will draw you in.