‘Milo was a discoloured memory with blurred edges and a washed-out palette. Yet five minutes with him and everything came back to me in an instant.’
Layla Montgomery and Milo Dark used to be friends, until her mother died. Wrapping himself up in the grief of losing his wife, Layla’s father packed his bags and his daughters and took them away from the town of Durnan. Five years later, accompanied by her boyfriend and lacking direction, Layla returns to Durnan, but she isn’t happy about it. She’s still trying to run from memories of her mother and she’s almost in denial that she’s back in the sleepy country town she knew as a child, when she runs into Milo, who encompasses both.
This was the first book I read from the ‘Notables’ list of the CBCA awards (see my previous post here), and while I really did enjoy it, it took me a little while to get through it. I’d read Gabrielle Tozer’s previous novels The Intern and Faking It and I absolutely adored them. Remind Me How This Ends was a little bit of a departure from the style that I was expecting, though. It seemed a little bit more serious and bittersweet, where Tozer’s previous novels were bright and bubbly fun reads. I did find Remind Me How This Ends to be a little bit of a slower read, and it was another novel that alternated being told from the two perspectives of the main protagonists, who were, in this case, Milo and Layla. I find that these types of novels always take me a little longer to read, as it takes a couple of lines for me to really start to hear the characters voice and it can sometimes make for a bit of a disjointed reading experience.
One of the main themes that resounds through the novel is the sense of confusion about the future, and how to continue when the plans that you’ve made don’t seem to work anymore. Layla is trapped by her memories, and says a few times throughout the novel that she has nowhere to go. This is her justification for ending up back in Durnan in the first place, following her boyfriend Kurt who she would have labelled as being from ‘the wrong side of town’ once upon a time. Milo is facing the time that comes with the end of Year Twelve. He’s trying to work out what he wants to do with his future, now that it is stretching out before him, all the while listening to his dad’s career advice and his mum’s suggestions about buying a house nearby to his childhood home. There is a sense of dread about what the future holds for both characters.
On Words and Nerds podcast, Tozer was talking about this novel, saying that she was in a bit of a ‘whacky headspace’ while she was writing it, but it ended up being an almost cathartic experience as she drew on her own memories to write certain scenes. This really shines through in this novel, as the story draws heavily on memories from both Layla and Milo. Their memories complicate things, as while there are a lot of good times that they remember and that in some instances they ache to recreate, these memories also bring with them a sense of loss and grief, that neither seem to be fully at peace with.
While Remind Me How This Ends isn’t my favourite novel by Gabrielle Tozer, it is well worth a read and its characters aren’t easily forgotten. It will transport you back to the heady, in-between time that follows the final year of high school, when the pressure and possibility of the rest of your life weighs upon you the heaviest.
‘Don’t freak out,’ she tells me, ‘but I think you’ve got a part of my heart now.’