I hesitate to write negative book reviews. I don’t have a slew of writing awards. I am not even a published author. I’d probably cry if someone were to say mean, hurtful things about me. So writing negative reviews feels presumptuous and hypocritical.
But I started this blog mostly with the intention to write down my thoughts on the books I have read, to maintain my analytical skills. I admire witty snark from a distance, but that’s not me. I’m not really here to jab my untalented fingers and shout vitriolic abuse. So as long as I am not being deliberately mean, I think I’m okay. There are, after all, books that give you no personal enjoyment whatsoever.
Such was the case with Lullabies by Lang Leav. I have seen both Love and Misadventure and Lullabies hanging around in the local bookshops. Looking at their covers and their artwork, I assumed that they were Young Adult novels. I would have never guessed them to be poetry collections.
In some ways, however, my Young Adult guess wasn’t too far off the mark. The crux of the matter is that I’m too old for Lullabies. Lullabies is entirely a collection of love poems. It wants to document the wild, passionate, heartbreaking-in-its-enormity type of love. It only succeeded in conveying your first crush type of love. There’s something childish and altogether too unrealistic about the type of love exalted in Lullabies.
In one poem, it is claimed that a person who has fallen in love twice has never truly been in love. Such a statement implies belief in “the one.” The “one true love.” The one who will sweep you off your feet and completely change your life. In Lullabies, love is an emotion that does just that: completely change your life. Love is bewitching. Love is all-powerful. Love leaves you gasping for air and pleading for mercy. “The one” will make you the happiest you have ever been. Ever after, you pine for them. No one ever compares.
Lullabies, to me, provides a rose-tinted view of love. In Lullabies, love provides nothing but sweet emotional highs and crushing heartbreak. Nowhere does it talk about the banality of love. Granted, my experiences with love is limited. But each time I fell in “love,” the world still turns and my life still goes on. My bills still need to be paid. My job is still going nowhere. Love isn’t the medicine for all wounds. Reading Lullabies, at times, made me feel as though I was reading an old Taylor Swift album in poetry form.
Maybe I’m too cynical. Maybe Lullabies just wasn’t relatable to my life. Maybe one day I’ll experience the wild, passionate, heartbreaking-in-its-enormity type of love with “the one” and then Lullabies will become a revelation. Maybe I’m being too harsh in judging this book. But I also can’t help but feel that Lullabies’ target demographic is overly-romantic sixteen year olds.
From a literary viewpoint, the poems are a little twee, a little too sweet. The rhyming schemes can feel contrived. Some word choices are clichéd. I know Lang Leav’s style is meant to be simple and whimsical but it really fell off the mark for me. I was reading Lullabies to finish it, which is a major no-no when it comes to poetry. Poetry is meant to be savored.
After slating poor Lullabies so much, I feel the need to look on the positive side. Not everyone are book snobs and poetry can be intimidating. A lot of readers would appreciate Leav’s simplicity and accessibility. I can understand why both Love and Misadventure and Lullabies are bestsellers.
I remember none of the poems in Lullabies save one, titled “Broken Hearts.” “Broken Hearts” caught my soul the way a good poem does. In a sisterly voice, Leav talks about healing a broken heart. Leav understands the hurt and the wounds a broken heart inflicts. No, she’s not here to assure us that “it will get better.” But she is here to tell us to “take all the time we need.”
My heart has been hurt and broken before. Not by a man. But by that “black dog,” by depression. Two years of my life was spent wrestling with depression. Being told “it will get better” would have made it seem as though what I was going through was a phase, a teenage-mood. Something unserious. I already felt inferior every day. There was no need to feel belittled even more. But being told to “take all the time I needed”? I would have felt relief. I would have felt important. Important enough for someone to give me time to repair myself.
I definitely think you need to relate to the subject matter of the poems to enjoy them. Lullabies may be for you if you are experiencing the first flush of love. Or experiencing a broken heart for whatever reason.
There is indeed a touch of the unrealistic in Leav’s advice. Time waits for no one. The world still turns and my life still goes on. My job assignments pile up. I can’t ignore my responsibilities. It’s not always feasible to “take all the time I need.” But sometimes, sometimes, idealism is what you need.