A few thoughts about A Book Dedicated to Our Youth

Time Will Never Go Back (A Book Dedicated to Our Youth) is a novel written by Tong Hua, the same author who wrote Scarlet Heart and Ballad of the Desert. The Chinese name is 那些回不去的年少时光.

Of all the fan-translated Chinese novels that I’ve read, this one has affected me the most deeply. I don’t share the culture, the time period, or the experiences, but I think that this novel is one of the few that captured my feelings about nostalgia. It was an extremely personal read and extremely cathartic, and I recommend it to anyone simply on the off chance that you might be like me, and it might just be that worthwhile.

Qi Qi, our protagonist, takes us through her youth and we explore her relationships alongside her. One of those relationships is with her best friend, a girl she’s friends with when young and who re-appears in her life after a few years’ separation. Their friendship is tight. Qi Qi seems to take their relationship, and her friend, as an extension of herself. In the end, seemingly after tragic circumstances push her to the end of her rope, her friend disappears.

While in Qi Qi’s life, her friend seems to have her own gravitational pull and she engraves herself in Qi Qi’s heart. Yet, in the end, she just leaves.

As Qi Qi reflects on this experience, it’s not with bitterness. Yet, the feeling it leaves in my heart is so incredibly bittersweet.

I reflect on my first friend, my best friend. Our teachers considered us as a unit and we hadn’t yet experienced any self-consciousness in friendship, so there was never any hesitation in our hearts that we actually were extensions of each other. Loyalty and dedication were a given, rather than a choice.

And then she moved away. And my child’s heart was bereft of something so fundamental that nothing was ever able to truly replace it. When she left my life, the self-consciousness snuck in, and I was never able to give my still-bleeding heart to another friend without reservation.

The memory is like scar tissue now. It’s almost invisible, but it’s still there. And in a moment of nostalgia, it still flares up. Though it doesn’t flare up in pain anymore, just bittersweet memories.

So many years,

I’ve always been learning one thing,

to not look back.

to only regret the things I haven’t done,

not the things I have experienced.

-Qi Qi, A Book Dedicated to Our Youth

(Links to the completed translated novel are on the Abridged Novels page)

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