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Book Review: Relive your teenage years with “The Brittanys”

Like everyone else on the planet, I’d rather eat a jean jacket than revisit my teenage years. Mine featured over-plucked, too-dark eyebrows, an accidental dye job from my natural dark blonde to bright ginger, and several pairs of ratty, slip-on Vans that will haunt me for the rest of my days.

Yet, taking a little detour down memory lane with Brittany Ackerman’s 2021 debut “The Brittanys” was well worth it.

Maybe not the most popular freshmen in school, the five Brittanys are known simply for their shared name and their unstoppable friend group. The fifth Brittany–who happens to be our narrator–wants the girls to shed their middle school selves and be somebody at their Florida prep school. But her best friend, Brittany Jensen, isn’t too keen on this transition into teenagers and adulthood. Alongside the pivotal people and events of her life, like her mother and going on her first date, readers are taken back to 2004 to relive Brittany #5’s teenage years and ultimately, life-changing moments.

As a 22-year-old, reading “The Brittanys” made me physically cringe as Ackerman recounted the horrendous 2000s fashion, awkward teenage dating, and the horrors of puberty. The honesty and accuracy of Ackerman’s writing brilliantly illustrate the inner-workings of teenage girls and the harsh coming-of-age moments we all encounter as young women. I can’t remember the last time I read a novel that so accurately portrayed the inner conflicts of teenage girls or the relationship dynamics of that age so well.

On top of Ackerman’s honest retelling of the dreaded teenage years, her poignant commentary on mother-daughter relationships, female friendships, and growing up shine through the diary-like, streams of consciousness the fifth Brittany recollects throughout the novel. Brittany #5’s commentary on her friendships with the Brittanys is terrifyingly relatable, especially for women growing up in the age of the Internet boom. There are moments where I question whether or not Ackerman read my mind as a teenager and put those thoughts onto paper–it’s that real.

Probably my only gripe with “The Brittanys” was how downplayed the main conflict between Brittany #5 and Jensen. I kept thinking to myself, “So when’s the big ‘uh-oh’ supposed to happen?” It was only until I had gotten to the Acknowledgements page I realized I had finished the book, leaving me wondering where the hell was the climax and ‘uh-oh’ moment?

Maybe I’m far too used to reading high-stakes, world-ending novels, but I was thoroughly disappointed with the anti-climatic climax and feeling like the conflict had been downplayed for the duration of the novel.

Although disappointed with the downplayed climax, the nostalgia and honest recollections of the dreaded teenage years are beautifully showcased with a no-holds-barred approach that’ll leave you walking down your own memory lane.

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