Random Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

That’s right friends and readers, I’ve got my teaching credential on lock which means I’M BACK. Reading books for fun and reviewing them for your pleasure.

One of the sweetest, most naturally developing love stories I have seen in YA Fiction.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han51GdayQh-uL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Lara Jean Song is the dreamy, sartorially adventurous middle sister in a tight-knit trio. The Song girls lost their mother unexpectedly years before, and have worked together to make life easier on their dad ever since. When uber-organized older sister Margot sets off for college in Scotland, it’s Lara Jean’s turn to take the lead running the household. At the same time, five of Lara Jean’s love letters are accidentally mailed to each of the five boys she once loved…including the popular boyfriend of an ex-friend and her older sister’s long-term love.

This is a book I normally would have avoided, the jacket is all mauve and it seemed terribly predictable. I bought it because I picked up a copy of Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds and Amazon told me the same readers enjoyed both. That definitely piqued my curiosity.

There are a lot of YA Romance standards in this book: the boy-next-door, the popular guy, the mean girl, a bargain to save face and incite jealousy; but none of the plot points are handled in a campy or obvious way. The story unfolds very naturally from the inciting event, and the heroine takes just as many steps back as she does steps forward (like we all do when we are learning and growing). It is a very realistic love story. One of its strongest points is the relationship between the three Song sisters and their father, and those relationships are given just as much screen-time as the romantic stuff. Each of the girls has a strong, distinct personality and an investment in their family as a unit.

This book really handles all of its characters fairly, the “mean girl” can be pretty darn mean, but she does have her reasons. Lara Jean is not by any means flawless or a Mary Sue, nor did she become catnip to boys overnight. Every part of this story, every lesson learned, feels real and earned. There are romantic gestures, but they are on a scale that feels possible with high school boys and organic to the characters as written.

If you enjoy novels with a strong family dynamic, sweet romance, characters coming of age, and a steady dose of humor…this one could be for you.

Chair Rating:

Sweet, upbeat, a family affair.

Sweet, upbeat, a family affair.

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NaNoWriMo Prep: The Third and Final Chapter

Only one day left before NaNoWriMo! That one day happens to be Halloween! Whoo! So for the last time, here are some rather random (but surprisingly relevant) bits’o’knowledge about my characters:

Autumn Kavanaugh

  1. Can they navigate their own local area without getting lost? To what degree? Yes. She has lived in Ashby her whole life and can get pretty much anywhere in town (and Horton) without consulting Google Maps. She has a solid intuitive grasp of the cardinal directions, enough that if you told her “the river is on the north side of town” she could find her way there in a reasonable amount of time.
  2. Do they know who the top politician or monarch is where they live? What about elsewhere? Yes, for her locality. Probably not anywhere else. Damn those ignorant Americans!
  3. Do they know if/where there are any major conflicts going on right now? Yes, in a general way. Such things only touch her life in an abstract way, being from an agricultural community in CA. She probably knows some hometown boys who’ve joined the armed forces.
  4. Do they know the composition of water? Yes.
  5. Do they know how to eat a pomegranate? Yes.
  6. Are they good with the technology available to them? Average? Completely hopeless? Autumn is competent with technology She could install a program and perform a virus scan, run a cash register, but she won’t be hacking any databases or building a computer out of coconuts. Her aptitude is more for mechanical/construction concerns. 
  7. Could they paint a house? Without making a mess of it? Actually, yes!
  8. Could they bake a cake? Would you eat it if they did? She can and does during the course of Grove. It is delicious. She also bakes cookies and a pie. 
  9. Do they know how to perform basic maintenance on the common mode of transportation? She can change a tire and put fresh water in a radiator. She can change the oil, replace brake pads and spark plugs, replace head/taillights (and their fuses), and install new wiper blades. If she were stronger she could also replace shocks alone, but as it is she needs her dad’s help on that one.
  10. Do they know the price of a loaf of bread? Yes. She also knows how to bake one.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Emily Kavanaugh

  1. Can they navigate their own local area without getting lost? To what degree? She is familiar with places in town, having grown up there. Beyond that she has very few navigation skills…but she knows how to use Google Maps!
  2. Do they know who the top politician or monarch is where they live? What about elsewhere? Yes for the U.S. and Spain (she studies Spanish in high school), no for elsewhere. 
  3. Do they know if/where there are any major conflicts going on right now? In the same vague way as Autumn. 
  4. Do they know the composition of water? Yes.
  5. Do they know how to eat a pomegranate? Yes, and it plagues her. Pomegranates are her favorite fruit, but it’s so hard to eat them without making a mess. 
  6. Are they good with the technology available to them? Average? Completely hopeless? Emily is average with technology. She knows how to use the things she likes, and when something goes wrong she gets Autumn or her dad to fix it. 
  7. Could they paint a house? Without making a mess of it? Yes, due to her meticulous nature, but she would never undertake such an arduous task. 
  8. Could they bake a cake? Would you eat it if they did? Given a very clear set of instructions, yes, and it would most likely be good…but she wouldn’t do that much work without a very good reason. 
  9. Do they know how to perform basic maintenance on the common mode of transportation? No. She can gas up her car and tell her dad when the check engine light is on, he takes care of the maintenance. 
  10. Do they know the price of a loaf of bread? No. 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Silas 

  1. Can they navigate their own local area without getting lost? To what degree? He knows how to get anywhere on foot. He has an instinctive feeling for direction. He is less certain in his car. 
  2. Do they know who the top politician or monarch is where they live? What about elsewhere? For the U.S. and countries with whom it is in conflict. 
  3. Do they know if/where there are any major conflicts going on right now? Yes. He has an interest in government.
  4. Do they know the composition of water? Not the chemical composition. 
  5. Do they know how to eat a pomegranate? Without a doubt, and he devours them with pleasure. 
  6. Are they good with the technology available to them? Average? Completely hopeless? He is impatient with technology, and not particularly good at using it. He can operate a cell phone well enough to call people, and can post to Facebook.
  7. Could they paint a house? Without making a mess of it? No. He would do a good job for a quarter of the house, if properly motivated, an acceptable job for half, and then abandon the project for something more interesting. 
  8. Could they bake a cake? Would you eat it if they did? Doubtful on both counts. 
  9. Do they know how to perform basic maintenance on the common mode of transportation? Not really. Duan handles the maintenance on the Volkswagen. 
  10. Do they know the price of a loaf of bread? No. 

Random Review: The Maze Runner

I hate that the cover is so pretty. I love ivy and an orange-and-green color combo. They made it look SO good!

The book of bad habits.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

When Thomas wakes up in a darkened elevator, he has no memory of who he is or where he comes from. The elevator takes him to a high-walled courtyard, The Glade, full of self-governing adolescent boys who have no memories of their prior lives either. He is informed that a new boy arrives every month. Beyond The Glade is a maze: explored by Runners each day, filled with monsters each night. The day after Thomas’ arrival an unconscious hot girl shows up in the elevator clutching a note informing the boys that she will be the last. What follows is a race against time to solve the maze before resources run out or monsters overrun The Glade.

This book was really hard to finish. The ideas were promising, and I had the feeling that things were just about to get exciting in a few pages…unfortunately I had that feeling all the way through with absolutely no payoff.

Let me state, once and for all, that this book has absolutely nothing in common with Lord of the Flies. Nothing. If you love that book (like I do) and were considering this one because you’ve heard it was in a similar vein, you’ve been bamboozled. Lord of the Flies has depth, sociological commentary, and psychological suspense. The Maze Runner doesn’t.

What it does have are many, many poor choices that rob the narrative of any excitement or suspense. I am afraid of writing a book like this, and I often found myself cringing when Dashner’s novel displayed an unchecked bad habit that I am prone to myself. I am going to list the poor choices for convenience:

1. This should have been a short story. If Dashner wasn’t interested in, or up to the task of, developing his characters as more than two-dimensional personalities; he should have told his tale in a short format to keep the focus on the events. Social dynamics between Gladers are superficial, particularly given how long most of them have been living together in stressful circumstances. Particularly irritating is the way The Gladers refuse to explain anything of what they know about their situation to Thomas. It seems like a pointless attempt to create conflict and suspense, and it is one that fails.

2. Dashner gives away all his suspense and conflict early on. Rather than letting Grievers, the deadly monsters that roam the maze, be a mysterious entity that goes bump in the night until Thomas gets to enter the maze himself; Thomas is shown a Griever through a window on the day he arrives. Teresa, who could brew conflict based on her gender alone, is dropped straight into a coma on arrival and kept off-screen unless it is time for Thomas to interact with her. A very poor choice. The fact that she arrives the very day after Thomas is also a poor choice, because he has yet to learn anything about Glader life. What could have been a huge shock to a settled-in Thomas with a month in the Glade was instead a throwaway moment.

3. Pacing. Holy moly. Dashner and I have something in common with our writing. I have a tendency to slip into a moment-by-moment description of events if I am not being careful. This makes for a bone dry read, and is a terrible disservice to story. I only care what a character ate for lunch if it tells me something about the character. Katniss’ focus on food underscored the general scarcity of it in her daily life, Harriet the Spy’s tomato sandwiches were a quirk of her generally independent personality. Ditto anything else the character does. It only matters to me if it matters to the story. Dashner drags the reader through many dull hours and frustrating conversations, just to get to “wow” moments that fail to thrill because the reader has become so disinterested.

4. The author shows his ass with the character of Teresa. It tells me an awful lot about how an author sees women when he drops a single female character into a story, makes her beautiful, takes away her ability to speak, and earmarks her for the “hero” (and none of the other characters challenge this assumption). It reminded me of Arya in Eragon: she’s there because the hero needs a hot babe to ride into the sunset with, no matter how little sense it actually makes in the context of the story. That is not authentic, that is an emotionally stunted little boy’s fantasy. The way the story is written Thomas basically has “dibs”.

5. Thomas’ self-reflection read like the author describing the character of Thomas to the reader. That doesn’t work in first-person. Awkward. Whenever Thomas had a good character moment: did something brave, devised a clever solution, or worked tirelessly; it was undercut by his previous musings that despite his lack of memory he felt like he was brave/smart/persistent. I tend to think of writing characters like creating a great drawing: if you do a good job rendering the values, bringing out the darks and lights, you don’t need to draw lines.

6. Spiked slugs aren’t scary.

This book was just so frustrating, particularly since I saw some of my own bad writing habits on every page. I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone, because there are so many good sci-fi/dystopian stories with similar themes that are well-written. I will not be picking up The Scorch Trials.

If you would like to read a book like The Maze Runner, but well-written, check out William Sleator’s House of Stairs. He did it better twenty years ago.

Chair Rating:

Could have been epic, but it’s fundamentally flawed.

Top Ten Tuesdays: Brain Busters

Back again with another fine Top Ten Tuesday. I love thinking books (and movies) so this one should be a cinch! Thanks, as always, to The Broke and The Bookish for keeping this top ten train a-runnin’.

Top Ten Books That Made Me Think

1. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

I read this one to my husband while we drove from our remote coastal college town back to our suburban hometown for Thanksgiving. Thanks to the wreck of a propane truck on the 101 (which has no alternate routes for hundreds of miles), we got stuck on the road just outside Willits for hours and had time to not only finish the book, but discuss it in detail. This led to the formation of our Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan. Friends were informed of their roles via text.

2. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (as translated by Yuji Oniki)

This was just straight-up “What would I do?” musing. If I found myself in the position of being forced to fight my peers to the death, without weeks to prepare or review my strengths, in an unknown landscape and in possession of a randomly assigned weapon. The range of characters in the novel allows for the exploration of an incredible number of responses to an unbelievable situation.

3. Feed by M.T. Anderson

This is one that I think of often, though not consciously. I will see someone do something, hear a conversation or political soundbite, or read an article that reminds me of a passage from this well-observed novel. And then I despair for the future of America (and possibly humanity).

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I think of To Kill a Mockingbird often, for so many reasons. When I think about strong character and virtue I think of Atticus’ courage and integrity. When I think of childhood with my brother I think of Jem and Scout (mostly the baton-breaking). When I am reminded of how small and selfish people can be, or the awful things they will do out of fear, I think of the Ewells. When I think about conformity, Dolphus Raymond comes to mind. I could come up with a dozen more examples, but one thing I know is true: it is weird that I identify most strongly with Scout and Boo Radley.

5. White Oleander by Janet Fitch

I have read my copy of this book to pieces, and hardly a day passes without a line of Fitch’s prose drifting through my mind. It was the first time I read a book and felt like my life had been laid bare. That I had that “How did she know?” moment, wondering about an author. Between Astrid’s observation and experience, and Ingrid’s epistolary instruction, there is plenty to mull over long after the last page is turned.

6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Rumination on what the modern American finds worthy of worship, or worships without conscious thought.

7. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

I often find myself reflecting on the cultural and generational gap between Tan’s mothers and daughters in this novel. Their desire to please and care for one another, and their sometimes conflicting desires for independence and understanding. Hard-earned wisdom and secrets lost in translation.

8. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

One of the most satisfying things about reading the entire series to my husband was getting to discuss it with him. From the big themes like good vs. evil and the shades of gray in-between, to the minutiae of who made a good couple and why the epilogue makes me mad.

9. Higher Education by Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle

As someone who works in education, after being the first in my extended family to attend college (and still the only one to graduate), I have a particular interest in speculative fiction based on the failure of the education system. Many times during my days at various educational sites scenes from this novel or certain lines will flash through my head. Based on my experience substituting today, I am still not convinced that this future is so implausible.

10. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

I gave this book a lot of thought as a child because I seriously considered running away on multiple occasions. I fully intended to take my little brother with me and I wanted to be just as well-prepared as Claudia. She really picked the primo hideout, and was quite a successful runaway in terms of time on the lam before being returned home.

Random Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

This is one novel that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Flamboyant dresser (and aspiring costume designer) Lola Nolan has two great parents, a super-sleuth best friend, and a sexy-rock-god-olda-boy for a boyfriend. Life is generally peachy, some tension between her parents and her tattooed Romeo notwithstanding, until the Bell twins return from parts unknown to reclaim the house next door. Lola has a tangled past with Calliope and Cricket Bell, and she’s none too pleased to see them back in her ‘hood. Our heroine spends the rest of the book making fabulous fashions and tremendous messes of all her relationships, but we all know she’ll end up with the right guy in the end. She just doesn’t know if that guy is Cricket or Max.

Stephanie Perkins wrote another book that has been crazy popular with the bloggers of late (Anna and the French Kiss) which I have not read for kind of a dumb reason. The book is set in Paris, but Perkins has never been there. I, on the other hand, spent some time studying in France in college. The absurdly romantic, rose-tinted and butter-scented portrait most people who have yet to visit Paris paint of the city really gets on my nerves. There is an entire syndrome, The Paris Syndrome, named for the crushing disappointment  tourists feel on arriving in Paris to discover it is a dirty, crowded city just like L.A. or New York or Tokyo with all the attendant headaches and problems (and few free public bathrooms, even in stores). Interestingly, this syndrome is most often experienced by Japanese tourists. So I have avoided Perkins’ other novel due to this pet peeve, and I didn’t immediately connect her with Lola and the Boy Next Door.

How is this relevant? My brain clicked into action, connecting the two books, as I was reading the rather Disney-fied version of San Francisco (and Berkeley) in this novel. This author has terrible luck with me, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She at least attended college in S.F., and refrained from calling it “Frisco”, so many of the descriptions were accurate if a bit sanitized. So, there’s that.

The thing is, I like Disney. It’s cute. This book is also really cute. Lola didn’t quite click with me at first but “the boy”, Cricket Bell, was designed for me to love. Cricket is a socially awkward inventor who has sacrificed many of the rites of youth in order to support his Olympic-hopeful sister Calliope and her figure-skating career. A mechanical engineering student at UC Berkeley, most of his interaction with Lola is confined to weekends. Lola has great, supportive, protective parents but some unusual origins that lead her into a bit of an  identity crisis. When she finally won me over, about two-thirds of the way through, she reminded me of two literary gals: Dimple Lala with her identity issues, and Carmen with her ardent spirit. Lola feels things deeply, and Lola loves hard. It’s easy to see what draws her to rock-god Max, and it’s equally easy to see why he’s a pretty crappy choice of boyfriend for Lola.

Which leads me to what I really loved about Lola and the Boy Next Door: Cricket Bell is not perfect, but he is perfect for Lola Nolan. Anna and Etienne St. Clair, whom I gather are the couple formed in Anna and the French Kiss, play a role in Lola’s story. They are similarly imperfect people who are perfect for each other. A lot of YA romance sets up a sort of universally perfect boy who just happens to fall for the heroine, and of course she loves him already because he is perfect and everyone else wants him. That is so grating. Lola starts off with this “get the guy everyone wants” mentality, but as she grows as a person (resolving her issues, figuring what matters to her) she begins to recognize the specific things she wants to find in a relationship for her own particular happiness. Part of this is accomplished through her observation of Anna and Etienne’s relationship, a clever way for the author to develop Lola while giving fans of Anna and the French Kiss a mini-sequel.

Bonus: Stephanie Perkins is really, really good at writing the kissing bits. There are Max/Lola kisses and Cricket/Lola kisses in this book, and just like in real life each pairing has a different feel when they are alone together. Perkins does an outstanding job of capturing the high vibration of anticipation that characterizes young love (and lust), when parents so often get in the way.

All in all, this book was adorable. The descriptions of Lola’s costumes were great fun (though sometimes Perkins went overboard describing settings). The romance is perfectly paced, and there are plenty of meaty subplots to keep the novel from becoming a flighty teen bodice-ripper. Cricket is terribly lovable, and we see Lola’s lovableness through his eyes even though she can be absolutely awful at times (like any teenage girl). I’d recommend it to anyone, and I will probably buy a copy for my niece.

If anyone is curious, I do plan on reading Anna and the French Kiss now. Fictionalized Paris or not, I have every confidence that Perkins will win me over once more.

Chair Rating:

Cute and quirky in a non-challenging way. Fun.

Random Review – How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship, and Musical Theater

This novel gave me a nightmare about being forced to ride through the Napa hills in the lap of a closeted gay teenage boy driving a motorcycle as his mass of shiny black curls flowed in the breeze. He wouldn’t let me off the motorcycle. I wish I were kidding.

How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship, and Musical Theater by Marc Acito, 276 pages

My overall impression of this novel is that it was both aimless and horrifying. There is not a scruple to be found amongst the main characters of this cynical, oversexed ode to theater life in 1983 suburban New Jersey.

Edward Zanni is a large Italian-American boy with an even larger singing voice, about to enter his last year of high school before moving on to Juilliard to pursue his musical theater dreams. His ample-in-every-way pal Paula precedes him and he is left to cobble together a social life from the remaining Musical Theater rabble. He scrounges up: his ex-cheerleader girlfriend Kelly (who he routinely dry humps in front of students and faculty alike), jock-turned-actor Doug whom he would also like to hump, ever-present tagalong Natie “Cheesehead” Nudelman, and terminally glamorous Persian transfer student Ziba. This cast of clowns makes a real mess of the book as they clumsily try to have sex with one another in varying configurations, regularly defile a ceramic buddha (which serves as a motif for the chapter headings), and perform various theater-related tasks in between. Edward’s arts-oriented mother is MIA, having split to find herself years earlier and recently gone off the radar in South America, leaving him to contend with a business-focused father and drug-addled sister.

When Edward’s father abruptly remarries, to a gold-digging German photographer, Edward finds himself edged out of his home and sans one financier for his college education. Luckily his friendship with Natie the Cheesehead has really taken off, because it turns out that Natie is a devious mastermind who develops an evolving strategy to raise Edward’s tuition money via a mix of good old-fashioned hard work (to which Edward is ill-suited, of course) and felonious white-collar crime. The whole gang gets dragged into the hijinks, including Paula up at Juilliard, and things get crazier and crazier right up to the bizarre ending.

The story is not exactly bad, I did finish the whole thing after all, but it is definitely a lot of book. The writing is good but many of the things that are supposed to come off as funny just seem cruel, gross, or (worst of all) stupid. Edward is pretty hard to like despite his struggles with his sexuality, abandonment, self-worth, and even impotence. If he doesn’t want to have sex with a peer, he looks down on them. If he does want to have sex with a peer, they are nothing but a an empty vessel for the fulfillment of his carnal desires. For all his nastiness he is rather cowardly. I could see this novel appealing to a certain kind of person who feels very outside: someone with a big personality, struggling with non-hetero-normative sexuality, who really loves the theater and is very self-absorbed. When Edward wasn’t ignoring his father he was making close-minded cracks at his expense, so I found his entitlement issues in regard to college tuition a little hard to take.

The strongest part of the novel is probably the fact that Edward grows up a lot by the end of it. He is able to see the friends he has cast into various stereotypes as real people put on Earth to do something other than fill the stage of his life. He finally gets to know Kelly as a person with personality and talent rather than a stock “pretty girl” who fills out a pair of terrycloth shorts really well. The much-maligned Natie seems destined for things much greater (and perhaps more terrible) than any of the others. So it goes as well for Ziba, Doug, and to a lesser extent Paula.

This is not a bad book but it’s graphically sexual, holds nothing sacred, and is at times just plain mean. I usually read YA to avoid these kinds of attitudes. The fact that Chuck Palahniuk recommended the author for publication says a lot about the sensibility of this novel, but I can’t agree with the claim that Acito is a “gay Dave Barry”.

Chair Rating:

Well-constructed but disturbing. Not for me.

Random Review: Audrey, Wait!

I read this delightful little book last week but I got so caught up in the Divergent/Insurgent mania that I’ve left the review until now.

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, 320 Pages

This book was great, I have nothing but positive sunshiney rays of feeling toward it. Much like the technicolor rays blasting from Audrey as she rocks out on the cover.

The story is sublimely simple: Audrey Cuttler dumps her rock-god wannabe loser boyfriend and in doing so provides the catalyst to propel him, and herself, to stardom. Her somewhat callous decision to keep walking right out the door when he calls “Audrey, Wait!” (though I get it, sometimes you gotta keep walking or the sad breakup tractor beam will pull you right back into the relationship) inspires him to write an angry scorned-lover pop rock anthem that takes their town, then college radio, then the country by storm. Suddenly all eyes are on Audrey as she is cast as either muse or heartless bitch, depending on who’s doing the talking.

Audrey is in no way enjoying being suddenly thrust into the limelight, she’s just a normal chick who broke up with a crummy boyfriend, but she tries to deal and hopes it will blow over soon. While taking advantage of an unexpected perk of her instant-celebrity, she accidentally boosts herself to infamy status and front-page tabloid fodder. Her best friend encourages her to milk her fifteen minutes for every free cosmetic and comped ticket it’s worth, but Audrey is having a hard time seeing the silver lining when she can’t even attend classes without paparazzi snapping her through the windows.

This book is absolutely solid, just a great read and one I would definitely pass on to my fame-hungry pre-teen niece. Audrey is one of the most believable sixteen-year-olds I have ever read in YA fiction: bursting with energy and charisma, in love with music and life, makes some pretty poor snap decisions that haunt her later, and is more swayed by public opinion than by her own assessment of things. The ex, Evan, is the ubiquitous sixteen-year-old boy in a band without devolving into a stereotype. It is easy to see why Audrey was dating him in the first place, and it’s equally as easy to see why she would dump him. Audrey’s co-worker at the local ice-cream shop and potential love interest James is the kind of stand-up guy teenage girls overlook every day, and it’s to her credit that Audrey recognizes her own shallowness in writing him off. Their romance develops over the course of the novel and is not without its hiccups, it makes for great reading.

One of the best things about this book is one of the more subtle aspects: Audrey’s support system. Far from suffering from disappearing-parent syndrome, Audrey’s are there every step of the way trying to navigate this unexpected situation with her. They never fly off the handle and confine her to her room, but they don’t allow her college-student levels of latitude either. Both parents listen to their daughter first no matter what the tabloid covers say, and the whole relationship is totally refreshing in a sea of absentee parents or draconian taskmasters. Equally refreshing is Audrey’s aforementioned best friend, Victoria, a true-blue bestie who sticks by Audrey even when she’s being a whiny brat and steers her toward all the things that are good for her: good guys, good times, good vibes.  I was so glad the author didn’t take the “jealousy-related falling out” or “suddenly ultra-competitive user” route with this friendship (even if Audrey may have perceived some of it that way).

Another fun part of the novel is that each chapter starts with an appropriate lyric from a song, after awhile I got on Spotify and started playing them as I read. It added a little something to this energetic read.

There is nothing I would change about this book, so I hope all of you pick it up and give it a chance because it’s a fun read (with the happiest ending)!

Chair Rating:

Bold, bright, and fun.