Made a trip to the library in an attempt to get some work done yesterday, and ended up borrowing a Chinese novel instead.
Here it is, 十七岁 by 梦若妍. The literal meaning of the title means “Seventeen Years Old”. The blurb of this book states:
The seventeen-year-old us were trapped in a love square. That was the start of all the mess. The whole graduation ceremony meant nothing to me. Pan Lei wasn’t in the picture, neither was Xiao Shuang, my best friend. There was only me in my graduation hat and Hongsheng holding me by my waist. Me and my fake smiles, this is pathetic. The world is envious of our relationship but nobody knows what this relationship has ruined. Like the ripple effect, everything is falling apart.
I thought this book would be one of those youth reminiscing stories where we will be brought back to the past and reminisce about being 17 years old but I’m wrong so far.
Mild spoilers ahead!
This story is actually based on the present, with occasional references to the past. The book is written in the point of view of the female protagonist, Ai Wei – a 35 year-old teacher. The start of the book had her talking about how she didn’t plan to fall in love with him – her 18 year old student. I was beyond surprised when I read that. First off, wasn’t this supposed to be a story about being 17 years old? Why did the story start off with (and continue to focus on) the ‘romance’ of the 35 year old protagonist and her 18 year old student? This is a really complicated story because it cues flashbacks every now and then and I’m always getting confused between ‘present’ and ‘past’.
More spoilers ahead!
I am now halfway through chapter 5 (out of 10 chapters) and I don’t know anything about the two other supposedly main characters mentioned in the blurb above except the fact that, one of them, Xiao Shuang, is the mother of Fan Xuan, the 18 year-old student involved with the main character. The father of Fan Xuan is Pan Lei, who used to the teacher of the other 3 main characters back when they were in high school. In other words, the female protagonist is in love and had a one night stand with the son of her high school teacher and ex-best friend. To add to the confusion, the protagonist blames herself for the divorce of Pan Lei and Xiao Shuang (the exact details remain unknown) and the female protagonist is taking care of the cancer-ridden Pan Lei but they are not romantically involved. Hongsheng, the person that the protagonist dated in high school, is still missing in action.
This sounds like perfect makjang drama material and while I came in expecting drama, this is far from expectations. I was looking for a dreamy-innocent school romance kinda makjang. I don’t really want to waste my time and continue reading this novel since it is obviously not what I’m looking for but recently, I gained an interest in teacher-student relationship stories and I guess this novel does include such an element, even though not directly. Plus, I can’t be at peace until I solve all these complex layers of this story!
What is exactly the relationship between Pan Lei and Ai Wei? What happened to Hongsheng? I think I’ll feel a lot for his character since he obviously fell for an emotionally unavailable lady. Does Fan Xuan knows that Ai Wei ’caused’ his parents divorce? And what exactly did Ai Wei do to her best friend and the high school teacher she had a crush on?! Too many questions. I hope this book doesn’t have those open ended endings where the story is unexplained or else I’ll go crazy. Now, I guess I’ll go back and spend a few more hours of life on that book.