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All This Could Be Different review: The trials and tribulations of being 20

This is a story set in the space between teenage years and adulthood, as seen through the eyes of a charmingly funny and compelling character.

Milwaukee skyline

A coming-of-age novel set in Milwaukee Photo: Hans on Pixabay

One of the more interesting types of novels to have cropped up in recent years is the “novel in which not much happens plot-wise but the narrator is vibes so it’s fine”.

I’m sure it’ll get a snappier name eventually. Proponents of this genre include Elif Batuman’s The Idiot and Either/Or, Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation and, now, Sarah Thankam Mathews’ All This Could Be Different. Mathews’ narrator, the displaced and dryly humorous Sneha, recounts the trials and tribulations of her early 20s as the daughter of Indian parents and someone messily exploring their burgeoning queerness. 

All This Could Be Different
All This Could be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews is out now (Orion, £14.99)

The result is a novel that revels in the contradictions and overblown drama of being in that familiar intersection of life where the world sees you as an adult, but you still see yourself being years away from ever actually growing up.

Being a debut, Mathews’ novel doesn’t have the most gleaming polish and requires some good faith from the reader in terms of its barely there plotting, but with a character like Sneha in charge you quickly forget it all and fall charmingly under her spell. 

You can buy All This Could Be Different from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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