It’s the summer after high school ends and everyone is moving on. Winning scholarships. Heading to uni. Travelling the world. Everyone except Milo Dark. Milo feels his life is stuck on pause. His girlfriend is 200km away, his mates have bailed for bigger things and he is convinced he’s missed the memo reminding him to plan the rest of his life. Then Layla Montgomery barrels back into his world after five years without so much as a text message.
As kids, Milo and Layla were family friends who shared everything – hiding out in her tree house, secrets made at midnight, and sunny afternoons at the river. But they haven’t spoken since her mum’s funeral. Layla’s fallen apart since that day. She pushed away her dad, dropped out of school and recently followed her on-again-off-again boyfriend back to town because she has nowhere else to go. Not that she’s letting on how tough things have been.
What begins as innocent banter between Milo and Layla soon draws them into a tangled mess with a guarantee that someone will get hurt. While it’s a summer they’ll never forget, is it one they want to remember?
High school graduation was something I dreaded. On paper, I should have been set. I had an early acceptance to the university of my choice, my accommodation was sorted and all the plans to move in place. Knowing my next step was comforting, I admit. But I was still leaving the school I’d spent my childhood at, saying goodbye to my best friends and would soon be living semi-alone at university. And I was an anxious, sobbing mess. Long story short? The flux between leaving high school and adulthood (whatever that is, let’s just say your 20s) is the perfect, very underutilised, fodder for a novel. I’ve read a couple of books which touch on this experience, but none which capture it as beautifully as Remind Me How This Ends.
Milo feels like the only person not moving out of his country town and hitting the books at university. To make matters worse, his girlfriend is one of those freshers and the distance between them is tough. Cue Layla: his childhood best friend who reappears in his life one day as suddenly as she vanished after her mum’s death. Remind Me How This Ends in many ways is all about the mess; exploring the tangle of relationships, endless career confusion, and the desire to see more than the town that holds your childhood memories.
Where Tozer’s debut, The Intern, was a funny and warm contemporary, Remind Me How This Ends takes on a slightly softer, sombre tone. It’s certainly not a ‘sad’ book by any stretch, nor is it missing the humour I adored in Tozer’s other work. But it certainly carries more emotional weight than The Intern and deals sensitively with some tough topics, including drug abuse, homelessness and mental illness. It was bittersweet, but I still finished Remind Me How This Ends with a smile on my face and hope in my heart. After reading this, I have added Tozer to my ever-growing list of must-read, favourite Aussie authors.
I loved the dual perspective of Remind Me How This Ends, which fit so beautifully in the story where both Milo and Layla were really struggling to come to grips with their own issues. I adored them both as characters. Milo was really looking for an out from small-town life, which can be so oppressive in itself regardless of the added pressure of choosing a career path. His parents were so well meaning in their suggestions that he buy a house in town and set himself up, but I could understand his frustration. It’s so easy for people to feel trapped in a location because they’re tied to work, or a house, or simply are afraid of venturing wider. Remind Me How This Ends expresses this mix of emotions beautifully.
While Milo is looking for an out, Layla is trying to come home, although it’s a home she feels hasn’t existed since her mother’s death. Remind Me How This Ends explores grief so sensitively, with a few well-placed flashbacks to heighten emotion. The novel also explores some tough, taboo topics including drug abuse, homelessness and mental health. All are issues facing teens and young adults in real life, so it’s wonderful to see them reflected in literature in a way that doesn’t feel patronising or judgemental.
I simply can’t recommend Remind Me How This Ends highly enough. It’s emotionally charged, but in the best possible way with a range of emotions from hopelessness to love. Remind Me How This Ends is a poignant reflection on the confusing limbo between school kid and adult, grief, and relationships. It’s simply beautiful, there’s no other way to put it.