Or Internet Girls series as it’s apparently known. I kind of did a double take when I first saw ttyl as Internet Girls #1 on Goodreads and thought maybe it was a mistake, but nope. Even on ttyl‘s Wikipedia page it says this is part of Lauren Myracle’s Internet Girls series of books. That’s nice and all, but I’ve been calling the trilogy of ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r the “ttyl books” for ten years now so you’re gonna have to forgive me for if I continue calling it that.
2016 was a pretty rough reading year for me. It was a year of trying out a lot of books that made their way onto my to-read list one way or another, and a lot of them didn’t hold up very well. Many of these books were usually all right at best, straight up hating at worst, but either way most didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I even decided to break out of my comfort zone and start reading a new genre altogether, biographies, which I didn’t care for before, wanted to give a fresh fair chance with, but only proved to myself that I still do hate reading biographies. Usually I write posts about each book I’ve read lately, but I started skipping posts about many of these books. Sometime last year, reading just stopped being fun for me. It felt like a chore more than anything else, and I honestly just wanted to do other things with my free time rather than read.
I started thinking about why I wasn’t getting as much value from reading anymore, and I think a big part of it was because of how literature itself operates as a medium. It’s just words. With movies, television, and video games, the story and how it’s presented to you is still there, but there’s also many other factors that contribute to your overall enjoyment of them, like the use of music, lighting techniques, special effects, and acting. With books, if the story doesn’t interest you, you’ve only got the writing style to fall back on. And if it doesn’t stick out, then that’s it. When I was in my fiction workshops in college, I always felt in some ways, writing literature was one of the hardest forms of writing entertainment because all you have to work with are words, so you really had to bring your A-game with how you use them. And I found that to be especially true after this past reading year.
I guess that’s part of the reason I wanted to revisit the ttyl books again after… six or seven years, I guess? I’ve changed a lot since then, and my genuine love for cheesey YA books has long since passed, but one thing I always have and still admire about this series is how the book is written. ttyl is most famous for being told entirely through instant messages. The page format is like an early 2000s era Macintosh window, the entire narrative is dialogue by the three main characters, each girl’s username is presented before their lines, and they all even have different fonts and colors to help develop each character’s personality. It’s like looking through old Facebook or text messages, only there’s a story built around it. This presentation, from a writing perspective, completely stands out to me and enhances my reading experience. More experimental forms of storytelling like this are exactly what I’m looking for in books. I loved rereading these not just for the nostalgia, but because of how they were written.
Which was good, because the stories had their fair share of incredibly cringey moments.
The ttyl books follow three friends, Angela, Maddie, and Zoe, through a few months of their high school lives. ttyl takes place early in their sophomore year of high school, ttfn takes place during the middle of their junior year, and l8r, g8r covers a good chunk of their senior lives. Each book has a new problem for each girl to overcome, and those problems often mix together or bleed into the other girls’ lives, effecting their friendship in some way.
In ttyl, Angela starts dating a guy that’s more into another girl, and after they break up she becomes so delusional that they should be together she starts developing stalker-like qualities. Maddie initially can’t stand what a bully their collective nemesis Jana is, but when Maddie gets her license Jana starts pretending to be her friend for the use of her car. Maddie becomes so blind and defensive to what’s happening, she ignores her friends completely for the last third of the book when she convinces herself her real friends aren’t trustworthy and don’t like her. Zoe starts developing a weird relationship with her teacher, Mr. H. It starts off with him inviting her to come to his church activity days, which Zoe initially embraces as she develops more of a spiritual side, but it turns creepier as he starts picking her up, making lewd remarks to her in private, and finally inviting her over to use a hot tub at a place he’s house-sitting for. Maddie ends up saving the day by crashing their weird date and saving Zoe, and the three resolve their own conflicts by the end.
ttfn starts out with the girls in a happier place, but things get shitty when Angela learns her father’s taking a job across the country and her whole family’s about to move. The girls’ friendship is about to be put to the test again, as the time zone and the physical distance between them makes it harder to keep in touch. Angela’s miserable in her new place, but while this is going on, Maddie is starting to experiment with drugs to impress a boy she likes, and Zoe starts dating Doug, who in the previous book was a dorky kid that was in love with Angela who never had his feelings returned. Maddie gets into some trouble with the police, and sheltered Zoe becomes extremely confused as her moral compass and her body’s needs are in constant conflict while exploring the physical sides of a relationship with Doug. Angela eventually runs away, using all of her savings to take a bus cross-country in the hopes that her desperate action will convince her aunt back home to let her live there.
Things wrap up nicely again, although I’ll admit ttfn was just a little bit weaker than ttyl, partially because this book didn’t really have as much conflict as the first one, at least between the three girls. They all sort of had self-containing issues that didn’t affect the other girls as much as the first book’s problems did, except maybe Angela moving cross-country. But even then, Maddie and Zoe’s life moved on while Angela seemed like the only one to be really effected by her distance from her friends.
l8r, g8r takes place in the girls’ senior year of high school, a year that I certainly dreaded back when I was in high school and always get uncomfortable whenever I read stories about it. All the usual senior tropes are here: fear of going separate ways, deciding whether or not to break up or make long-distance relationships work, stressing over college applications, prom drama — it’s all here. In some ways this makes l8r, g8r my least favorite of the three, given that I have a bias against a lot of the subject matter here, but in other ways I think the problems the girls face are the most interesting in the series.
Angela started dating a nice guy that she legitimately has fun with, but she starts feeling like he’s better as a friend than boyfriend. When she’s about to break up with him, he gives her a jeep and she spends a lot of the book struggling with herself and what to do. She doesn’t want to break up with him because of the extremely generous present, but she doesn’t want to date him, yet she doesn’t want to lead him on — I’ll admit she feels a little shallow at some points, but I feel like this is a problem that many people have to some degree and I can appreciate her trying to do the right thing, even pin down what the right thing even is.
Maddie struggles with Ian, a guy she started dating in ttyl but broke up with between the first and second books. Her actions in the first book made Ian hesitant to see her anymore, and I guess after the first book things just weren’t working out and they went separate paths. Angela and Zoe always voiced their opinions that she still had feelings for Ian and how they want them to get back together, but Maddie always resisted. Ian shows up in her life again, and they hang out again, but she doesn’t want to admit to herself that she has feelings for him. Again, struggling to accept feelings for someone for whatever reason is something I also feel like a lot of people deal with, and I can appreciate it seeing represented here.
Zoe, unfortunately, is the most irritating part of this book. In ttfn she starts to lose herself in Doug and their relationship, but eventually gets some of her identity back by the end. In l8r, g8r, she loses all of that character development and becomes obsessed with her boyfriend. Throughout the entire book, she is constantly going on about how great Doug is, how perfect Doug is, how worldly Doug is, blah blah blah blah blah. Even Angela and Maddie are like, “shut up Zoe.” She puts off spending time with Angela and Maddie for Doug, and a huge part of this book is Zoe hyping up when they’re eventually going to have sex, which I’ll admit is a relatable issue for most people, but always left me feeling creepy while reading about it in YA books as a late-20s guy. Zoe is the complete manifestation of why reading about honeymoon phases in relationships is really irritating, and although she realizes how obsessed she’s become and how much of herself she lost by the end of the book, that’s not enough to make her particularly likable in this particular entry.
If it feels like this series has a lot of teenage melodrama, that’s because it does. Like, a lot of it. But honestly, I can say the same about so many YA books. The big thing I take away from the ttyl series (besides personal nostalgia) is the writing style. Like I mentioned earlier, the entirety of the series is written in an instant message format and I absolutely adore this. I’m still kind of surprised just how well Lauren Myracle built up the subplots by slowly yet gradually introducing them into extremely natural sounding dialogue between the girls’ IM conversations.
A lot of the criticism I hear about these books is how there’s not really a story — not an interesting one, anyway. And I can kind of see where they’re coming from. These books have a lot of conversations that don’t really contribute to the plot. Many of them are like actual instant messages, like just shooting the shit, bringing up stuff that happened in class earlier that day, talking about crushes, and dumb things teachers did. It all sounds like natural dialogue — honestly, this is probably one of the best instances of natural sounding and natural paced dialogue I’ve ever seen in literature — but I know many people follow the school of thought that dialogue like this, that may help with world building or character development, is a waste of space in terms of plot. Personally, I feel like you can’t call it right or wrong because it’s more of a case by case situation. But I do think that these books are built around this type of dialogue and are actually one of the great parts about them, so I think it more than works.
I feel like most of the content in these books, however, only holds up well for teens. It is a YA book, so I guess that’s to be expected, but for this series in particular the subject matter almost always feels relevant to a certain stage of life. And once you’re past that stage, well… you know. 😛
However, if you get more from reading than just another story to pass the time and find value in experimental writing, I totally recommend at least checking the first book out. Again, the IM conversations that make up the entire narrative provide a unique reading experience that feels surprisingly natural. I’d love to see more experimental storytelling like this, only from books that target a demographic a littler closer to my age. Like maybe the same exact concept, only taking place in college…?
Oh. I guess that happened a couple of years ago? Yeah, to my surprise, a fourth book in the series called YOLO was released a couple of years ago. Now the original trilogy was released between 2004 and 2007, so my natural hesitation of all things sequel-related is gnawing at me to not check out this fourth book released seven whole years later. However, if it’s more of a writing style like this, then I honestly want to go find a copy. Like I said, I’ve grown so sick of reading lately, and I hate it. I really want to explore more books that play around with how they present their stories, especially if that’s what’s going to peak my interest again. I’ll let you know how it is if I ever read it!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re having a great week! 🙂
Info for my editions of ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r: