Some memoirs are all-encompassing, whereas other memoirs provide you with just a slice of a person’s life. This memoir is the latter. Many of us would likely run the other way if someone asked us to write a memoir of our high school years, but that’s exactly what Tegan and Sara Quin did.
The first Tegan and Sara song I ever heard was “Living Room.” That catchy melody, those clear voices, how their individual voices blended together so well – I was hooked. When I heard they were writing a memoir, my interest was piqued and I wanted to learn more about them, but I’m just not sure this book is what I had in mind.
The title is pretty self-explanatory: reading this book was like peeking into their high school lives. Told in alternating chapters, it begins in 10thgrade and goes through 12thgrade, summers included. I’m not sure what I was expecting with this book, and if you go in trying to find a neat and tidy linear plot, you’re going to be disappointed. In each of the prologues (there are two, one for each twin) the twins make statements that are telling. Sara writes, “…Opposite me, I registered the empty space. Without Tegan, I had become me. And it was awful.” Tegan writes, “…I wonder frequently how many of the memories I carry of Sara are actually my own. How much of my early life have I confused with hers?” Indeed, this is a theme throughout the book: the individuation of each sister, becoming herself while still being part of a biological dyad. The book details their parents’ divorce, friendships, depressions, drug use, sexuality, and the emergence of their singing and songwriting. I’m about the same age as the twins, and reading about their high school years brought me right back to the days of grunge. The enclosed pictures on the back looked like they could have been lifted out of my own photo albums – oversized shirts and sweatshirts, chokers, ringer tees, striped sweaters.
If you’re looking for a memoir detailing Tegan and Sara’s high school years, nothing more and nothing less, you’ll enjoy this. Parts of it felt a bit tangential and unnecessary, and I do wish the book focused more on their musical journey and their early years as a group, making their way in the business, rather than the struggles with friendships and the sneaking out and drugs that make up a considerable percentage of the book. While they do write about discovering their sexualities and identities, the reader doesn’t really feel like they really know either twin by the end of the book, and the writing felt awkward and distant. This could be a result of the format, with the alternate chapter POV. The book has a confused, chaotic feeling to it, which isn’t unlike the high school experience, but I’m not sure I wanted that in a book.
Overall, if you’re a big Tegan and Sara fan, you’ll want to pick this book up. If you simply like their music, this could be hit or miss, depending on how deep a story you’re looking for. If they come out with a memoir telling the story of their music career, that’s a book I’d definitely pick up. This wasn’t it for me.
High School is out September 24, 2019.
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Jaime Herndon is a writer and editor who lives in NJ with her family. Her writing can be found on Book Riot, Fiction Advocate, the Rumpus, VeryWell Family, Healthline, Today's Parent, and more.