Review by Hannah Whitehead
The Unpredictability of Being Human by Linni Ingemundsen is a charming and heartwarming coming-of-age tale about a young girl living in a small, remote town in Norway. It gives an extremely endearing and honest portrayal of the trials and tribulations of growing up, from the hardships of dealing with ‘mean girls’, to the trauma of coping with first crushes. Despite the many struggles and knock backs that our protagonist Malin faces, the tone of this book is consistently optimistic and encompasses a very childlike and innocent outlook of the world. This is particularly prominent with Malin’s complete ignorance towards the state of her family unit that is slowly collapsing around her, and as a reader you cannot help but empathise with this character. Ingemundsen draws upon the Scandinavian setting to add not only an authenticity to this novel but also a ‘fairytale-like’ charm made possible by the ‘small town, big dreams’ feel of the story.
The presentation of the toxic clique that Malin gets drawn into is all too familiar and serves as a reminder that sometimes it’s better to be an outsider than to fall victim to the ‘mean girls.’ This idea is captured brilliantly at the end of the novel as that heartwarming optimistism re-emerges when the narrator explains that although there is by no means some perfect happy ending fixing everyone’s problems, and although she is still struggling to find friends, there is very much a light at the end of the tunnel.
I really appreciated the honesty of this book and its uncensored presentation of a somewhat unconventional, messy family unit; the palpable fear induced by first crushes and the pressures of balancing new friendships with maintaining one’s own identity. However, I did struggle slightly to get a gauge on the narrator, perhaps this was purely an authorial choice but she seemed very young and immature for fourteen, to the point where it was almost unbelievable. Also, as much as I enjoy a touch of cheesiness, the frequent inspirational quotes thrown in and the way the ending is worded was a bit excessive. By this, I mean I just found the ending slightly tiresome and somewhat out of place with the conversational, diary-entry format of the rest of the novel,
However, despite my small criticisms, I did really enjoy The Unpredictability of Being Human. It came across as a very personal story to the writer with parts of it being perhaps reminiscent of her own upbringing in a small Norwegian town. The obscure references to Norwegian food, dialogue and traditions added an extra layer to this seemingly typical ‘teen drama.’ Despite all this, what really makes this book stand out as a good read has to be its protagonist, Malin. Ingemundsen has created this very relatable, quirky character, whose nerdiness and childlike perception of the world makes her utterly lovable. Overall, Linni Ingemundsen’s The Unpredictability of Being Human is a great read, especially for a young teen audience and will definitely bring a sense of nostalgia and envy for the simplistic and idealistic outlook on the world which is depicted.