I loved the honesty, the vulnerability, and the touching journey that Nic, the protagonist of 500 Words or Less embarks upon.
Nic Chen refuses to spend her senior year branded as the girl who cheated on her charismatic and lovable boyfriend. To redefine her reputation among her Ivy League–obsessed classmates, Nic begins writing their college admissions essays.
But the more essays Nic writes for other people, the less sure she becomes of herself, the kind of person she is, and whether her moral compass even points north anymore.
There’s something incredibly raw about 500 Words or Less. It’s in Nic’s belief that she may not be worthy of love. Or it’s in her realization that not only may she not have known her boyfriend, but also herself. And what does that mean? It’s a true testament to that saying, “you can’t love anyone else if you don’t love yourself”. Can you?
But it’s more than that. It’s about looking into the soul of someone else to see something you never saw in yourself. Nic uses the lenses of college essays to see more of her classmates than ever before. To unpack their shame, to see beneath their veneer, and find out what they struggle with.
So many times throughout reading, I would just stop and highlight these words. There’s a lyric simplicity to the writing. The lines where you are stopped and you think, “that’s a good looking line”.
But 500 Words or Less examines our journey to see each other – to truly look at the raw images of our faces. Of our souls. To recognize the pain, the flaws, and the mistakes. And to accept people for it anyway. It’s tender and fragile as we look at recovering, moving forward, and finding your own way. We all want to be seen, to feel something, to be understood. And I think it’s so rare we are.
And sometimes the relationships we want, aren’t the ones we need.
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