Natalie’s parents are getting a divorce, perhaps the most civil divorce in marital history. Everything is very polite and thoughtful and it’s driving Natalie insane. Why isn’t anyone fighting? Why isn’t anyone upset? On top of this, the two people Natalie loves most (after her parents) have just got together. Lucy, Zach and Natalie are no longer a friendship group of three, but a couple plus Natalie. Life is fine and normal but also complicated and sad. Where, and with whom, does she belong? It is within this complex normalcy that Nina Kenwood’s It Sounded Better in my Head works its magic.
It Sounded Better in my Head is Kenwood’s debut novel and the winner of the 2018 Text Prize for fiction. Kenwood, who has worked in the Australian book industry for over ten years, brings her ample knowledge of reading and readers to her first book, which is masterfully paced and beautifully written. It Sounded Better in my Head is aimed at young adults 15+ and captures the tricky business of being no longer a child and not quite a grown up. It is a book about being on the cusp. Natalie is a loveable, vulnerable teen going through a series of catastrophes that we all recognise and remember: first love, body image issues, anxieties about the future and what it holds. Nina Kenwood is at her best when describing that excruciating (and, in Kenwood’s hands, hilarious) internal monologue familiar to anyone with self-doubt or social anxiety, and those recognisable moments of soul-baring nakedness (literal and metaphorical) that make her young characters wish they were dead.
I recommend It Sounded Better in my Head for readers of any age who enjoy tender, insightful writing about family, friendship and change, but especially for readers in their late teens who may be steering through a tough time. In a subtle way, It Sounded Better in my Head demonstrates a few key things: how to be resilient, how to fail and survive, and how to grow, and grow up.
Reviewed by Charlotte