I read this book for two reasons: 1) Ashley (narfna) recommended it and 2) the main characters are obsessed with The X-Files, an obsession I, too, shared when I was their age.
Rory and Lula are best friends who live in a small Southern town and have much in common, but what they really bond over is The X-Files. Both have been abandoned by at least one parent (Lula by both, Rory by his father), though Lula lives with her loving grandparents while Rory is forced to fend for himself as his mother, an alcoholic they call Patty the Pickle, provides basically nothing more than a roof over his head.
I was immediately drawn to this book, and not just because of the X-Files connection. Lula and Rory are both outsiders and they’re just trying to figure stuff out. It’s a typical teenage coming of age story, I suppose, and one I could identify with even if I couldn’t specifically relate to some of what the two teens were going through (partly because, at almost 34, I am decidedly NOT a teen anymore but mostly because my parents, thankfully, are lovely people). But Lula and Rory are confused and their lives are messy but they’re just trying their hardest, dammit. You can’t help but hope they get everything they want and need.
It seems silly to say that something as trivial as a TV show provided such an easy outlet to identify so closely with these characters, but it just so happens that the TV show in question was the opposite of trivial to me at one point in my life, and it even led to me forming a friendship that I wouldn’t otherwise have had, were it not for The X-Files and the newly burgeoning internet.
The X-Files premiered in 1994, when I was 12-years-old. I didn’t start watching it until a year or two later, just around the time Scully is abducted and Mulder loses his mind over it, and my interest quickly grew into obsession. It wasn’t JUST that I wanted Mulder and Scully to touch each other on the naughty bits, though that was a big part of it. There was just something comforting about the two of them, outsiders in so many ways, sticking with each other through everything. The bond they had was something special, even outside of the romance I wanted them to share. Their relationship was different than anything I’d ever seen, though granted, I was not a worldly teenager, always more wrapped up in fictional worlds than in, you know, leaving the house and having my own adventures. Also, I was 12.
I watched every episode, and painstakingly recorded them all on VHS, trying my hardest to make sure I caught up on episodes I’d missed when reruns aired. (Teenage me would be very excited to learn about Netflix.) I collected magazine and TV Guide (!!!) clippings, and saved them all in a photo album that quickly filled up. I read fanfic, I participated in AOL X-Files forums and chats, and was even part of an e-mail list devoted to dissecting each episode of The X-Files in painstaking detail. This list was, most of the time, quite a lot of fun, particularly when a “war” would break out between Shippers and NoRoMos, when my above-mentioned friend and I would lay out evidence of Mulder and Scully’s love as if we were real FBI agents trying to prove a case.
Weird Girl and What’s His Name came into my life at a serendipitous time, as The X-Files Revival started just after I read it. I can’t begin to describe the eerie deja vu that came over me as I waited for the new premiere. It was Sunday night. I was waiting for football to be over so I could watch my favorite show. I was giddy and nervous and afraid I’d miss it (though TiVo is a bit more reliable than my old VCR).
The differences between teenage me and adult me (for instance, I used to watch the show alone in my parents’ house and was now watching with my husband in my own house) weren’t even enough to distract me, though I did take great comfort in knowing that I could pause the show if I needed to pee, or even rewind if I wanted to watch a “shippy” moment over again (also, I can drink now). And though most episodes of the revival left much to be desired, it was still nice to be that person again, if only for an hour a week.
When I think back to high school, so much of what I remember centered around The X-Files. Getting on AOL when I wasn’t supposed to, cringing while the dial up modem screeched and connected, hoping my parents wouldn’t hear it and catch me, just so I could talk to people about this show that I loved. My friend and I talked constantly on IM and email about the show. We started a website to painstakingly list every “shippy” moment from each episode. We even got to meet for the first X-Files movie, despite living many states away from one another, which we saw (I think?) four times opening day. This show was a huge part of my life, as ridiculous as it sounds.
So when I read this book, and how much the show bled into Lula and Rory’s lives, it made my heart ache. For the weird girls. For the kids who feel lost or like nobody notices them. For the people who feel like they don’t fit in. It made me a little sad, too, because those feelings never really go away. Sometimes I think we’re all still who we were in high school, and always will be. Maybe I’ll always be the quiet girl who was too wrapped up in a fictional world to pay much attention to what was going on around her. And maybe that’s OK. At least I’ll be in good company.
I guess what I’m saying is, you should really go watch The X-Files. And then ready this book.