If you loved the film Kids, you probably love to feel uncomfortable and to look at other people's lives without filters. The next books will provide those gut-wrenching feelings for you.
We love stories about people who make mistakes, whether they're big and tragic or small missteps that lead to more hardships. We love those stories because, first, we want to think we would make better decisions if we ever faced such a situation, and second, we want to feel accompanied in our personal history of failings. A film like Kids, one that focuses on the world of teenagers, is a perfect example of this. We can watch it and feel an immense relief because we had better teenage years in comparison, and we can feel the pain in our stomach that comes after the recognition of our mistakes in the characters.
If you loved Kids, you probably love to feel uncomfortable and look at other people's lives and troubles without filters. The next books will provide those gut-wrenching feelings for you.
A Little Lumpen Novelita, by Roberto Bolaño
In this novel, the narrator remembers the year after the death of her parents when she was a teenager. As an introduction, she briefly mentions her current life, describing it as simple and traditional (she's married and with children) to contrast it and compare it with the story she's about to tell. It's a safe start because, no matter how bad the story gets, we know from the beginning that she manages to survive, that she doesn't kill herself or gets killed.
The young protagonist of this novel is abruptly pushed towards adult life before she's ready. She and her brother have no time to deal with their grief because of the sudden problems of independence. The struggle to get a job leads them to share their house with strange characters that influence their path by making crime and prostitution options they wouldn't have expected to consider for their lives.
My Documents, by Alejandro Zambra
Alejandro Zambra's characters are lonely and troubled. His short stories are filled with the mistakes and the blindness that make Kids a compelling film. The difference is that most of these characters are older, more self-aware, and their world is less suffocating than the world that we experience through Kids. But their human failings are similar, and we discover that after the reckless ignorance of the teenage years, the disorientation with which we go through life stays the same. If you loved the directness of Kids, you'll enjoy Zambra's writing style and his straightforward depiction of daily life, unstable relationships and complicated sexual histories.
No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July
The internal life of Miranda July's characters is conflicted and sometimes devastating. She manages to write with humor and compassion about emotionally fragile and neurotic humans. Through her writing, we see them as they are, as well as their desires, in the most transparent ways. When we watch Kids, the opposite thing happens: the characters don't show who they really are and what they really think, at least not voluntarily. We witness their daily life as they prematurely explore the world while acting like experts. Of course, they have no real experience, and it's all a bluff that carries life-threatening consequences. Miranda July's short stories will make you understand a movie like Kids better by showing you what happens under the surface: the love we all crave, the flawed methods we use to gain it, and the elaborate justifications that help us sleep at night.
Beauty Salon, by Mario Bellatin
Beauty Salon could be an even bleaker continuation of Kids. It's already hard to imagine a future where one of those characters leads a happy and healthy life, but this novel presents a reality that's too dark to imagine even for them. Here, AIDS is described as a mysterious disease that fills the protagonist's beauty salon with sick clients. Among all that pain, a transvestite gay man maintains a place “where people who have nowhere to die end their days.” He does it out of love, but simultaneously we know that he has selfish reasons. He imagines that he will die alone soon, and by taking care of all the sick people that reach him he symbolically takes care of himself. This novel will remind you that there's an incredible amount of love in the most extreme situations and most unfortunate stories.
The difference between a film like Kids and these stories is the fact that we don't know what the future brings to Kids' characters: maturity, repentance, or death. But all of these stories refuse to give clear answers. Instead, they give plenty of space for us to see ourselves in them.
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