It is no secret that starting college means starting a new phase of your life. It can be many people’s first time away from home, surrounded by new people. It can be a scary experience, but it is also a necessary one. This is especially true if you want to escape from the past. That sentiment is the main idea of Haley Jakobson’s debut novel “Old Enough”, which was released in book stores on June 6th. While the main character of this novel is a sophomore, not a freshman, she still has a lot of exploring to go through in college. She is still making new friends, figuring out her passions, finding new crushes and trying to live in the present. However, it is hard for her to focus on her present when her past still haunts her. This novel can be a hard read for many people due to some sensitive topics, but it has some universal concepts that anyone can understand. There is a lot of humor, a lot of reflection and an up close look at the journey to find an identity.
Savannah, or Sav as her friends call her, is a second semester sophomore at a liberal arts college. She has recently come out as bisexual, which has led to her introduction to the LGBTQ community at her college, including her new best friend Canadace. Sav is liking her new life, new friends and her gender studies class, which includes her crush Wes. However, the past is never too far away. Sav’s best friend from home Izzy has recently announced that she is getting married. While she wants to support Izzy, Sav can not forget what Izzy’s brother did to her in high school. No matter how hard she tries, Sav can not let the past go. Sav and Izzy have made promises to be there for each other, but Sav no longer feels like the same person she was in high school. The novel switches from showing situations in the present to some of the bad situations that Sav went through in high school. Sav needs to figure out who she is now, and if that is someone who can go to Izzy’s wedding.
I am always on the lookout for stories about college students. In this day and age, it seems that everyone is trying to tell stories about high school students that are about adults. This idea goes for all types of media, not just books. I felt this book gave an accurate depiction of college life. It can be difficult to make friends and socialize, and the main character of this novel goes through those struggles. She is trying to figure out where she is at in life, and even though she has only been at college for a little over a year, she feels like an entirely different person compared to high school. It may seem like not a lot of time, but I can connect to the large separation between high school and college. I do wish there were more aspects of college told in this story, like more classes and clubs, but I understand too much outside detail could be extraneous. I did like that she at least talked about the gender studies class, which sounded interesting. The environment and topics described in the class sounded intriguing, as well as the final presentations everyone did in that class. The excitement of college is you never know what kind of life you will lead, what friends you will make or who you will be. This novel fully captured that sentiment.
It is always nice for a book to have many fleshed out characters. While this can be a lot from time to time, these characters were all interesting to read about. Sav’s insecurities and growth were certainly understandable. She is someone who likes to have fun, but usually prefers fun in a more relaxed setting. I could easily see myself being friends with someone like her. Then there were her exciting friends. As is often the case, the main character is more grounded while the friend group is a little zanier. Sav’s best friend Candace was speaking her mind and never afraid to be herself. On top of that, she was always supportive of Sav. I was always most interested in parts of the novel that had her. Sav’s other friend Vera was also fascinating to read about. With her one-of-a-kind smile, her confidence, her intelligence and her hidden sweetness wrapped up into someone who seemed like a lot of fun. Then there was Sav’s friend from Izzy, who was written to be a typical southern sorority girl. She came across as ditzy and energetic but still had insecurities on the inside. It was interesting to see her layers unravel. There were other terrific characters, like Wes, Sav’s crush, Lara, Sav’s classmate, Nova, Sav’s ex and more. All of them were unique and fun to read about. The characterization helped with the storytelling, which is the sign of a great writer.
This book has an excellent balance of humor and drama. It knows when it can be fun, and it knows when it needs to be serious. A lot of the novel sees Sav joking around with her friends and going to some house parties together. These moments can make anyone wish they were a part of this friend group. There are not that many moments of the novel that are really hilarious, but there are plenty of moments that have a joyful energy that will make you smile. However, there are also a lot of moments in the book that are serious and a little sad. All of the flashback chapters where Sav has to her time in high school have a somber tone, as they display a time where she was dealing with a trauma and was not comfortable with herself. Some of the flashback chapters felt a little slow and disrupted some flow in the story. I much preferred the stories of the present, when Sav is in college. I would say a few of those chapters could have been cut as they were not always needed. However, a good amount of them served as necessary context for Sav’s headspace, and they helped put pieces of the story together. This novel has a terrific balance overall. It is not entirely depressing so that it becomes a sad reading experience. It is also not joy every moment nor does it make light of a traumatic situation. There is a little bit of every mood in this novel, creating a cohesive story that turns into a nice ending.
“Old Enough” is a wonderful story for the modern college student. No matter your background, you will be able to find some part of the novel to connect to. Even if you are not in college, this is a novel that is about growing up and trying to find happiness, which is relatable for many people. After I read this novel, I went back and reread many parts of the novel because I wanted to hold on to this story. There were some scenes that I loved, whether it was for what happened or the storytelling, that I just had to read again. I believe that is a great sign of a well-made book. While the story could have flowed a little better due to the interesting storytelling technique, I think that the novel had a lot of captivating moments and scenes that made everything worth it. So if you want a college story that is relatable, or you want an emotional coming-of-age book, read “Old Enough” today.