It Sounded Better in My Head takes place in Australia, where summer is in January and senior year ends before college admissions are announced. The novel’s narrator, Natalie, feels in between. She’s in between her parents, who have blindsided her with an amicable announcement that they are divorcing, and in between her best friends, Zach and Lucy, who have started dating. But mostly, Natalie is in between being an introvert with severe acne and being an outgoing teenager who goes to parties. And then at one of those parties, she plays a game of spin the bottle and kisses Zach’s brother, Alex.
In this deceptively complex book, superficial questions about the intricacies of texting your crush accompany serious explorations of body image, sibling dynamics and interpersonal trust. Debut author Nina Kenwood hilariously chronicles Natalie’s bumbling attempts to pursue Alex through an awkward first date, unintended mishaps and more. But Kenwood also follows Natalie as she engages in meaningful conversations with Alex about physical intimacy. The pair’s on-the-page discussions of contraception, past partners, STIs and infidelity are frank and honest, and would serve as excellent models for readers in need of a script for such conversations in their own lives. It’s also heartening to read Natalie’s realization that intimacy and intercourse don’t need to be synonymous: “I never thought about how nice it would be to just have someone touch you softly and gently. . . . I thought it was sexy stuff or nothing.”
With candor and affection, It Sounded Better in My Head captures a teenager navigating the final moments of one stage of life and the first moments of the next.