Synopsis: It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?
Emery Lord and I were off to a rocky start. Well, not start exactly. I thought we had thoroughly DTR’d. And that the definition of that relationship was “you write bad books, I hate reading them and get very angry, I give them one star forever.” But then she had to go and decide to write something I didn’t hate.
Don’t get me wrong. This book wasn’t perfect. Maybe it wasn’t even good. But it’s started to get warm out, and when it’s warm out I read up a STORM – mostly contemporaries. This hit the spot. Dang it. I hate this. I should have pretended I hated this book so I could be self-righteous and correct all the time.
But I still think you kind of suck, a little, Emery. The thing with this book is that, though it had the lil dumb things that are characteristic of a contemporary, it wasn’t nail bitingly, world endingly, life changingly problematic and horrible. One Emery Lord book made a terrible, cringeworthy joke out of mental illness; one hated women. This book was…fun. You see how that doesn’t make up for anything, really?
But we’ll start with the good stuff. Or not really “start.” (Is that funny because start is in the title? No? Okay.) But y’all get me. First off, this book made me miss my friends. (My hometown friends. Because it’s not summertime yet. And we’re in college so I haven’t seen them since Christmastime. Why am I trying so hard to convince you guys I have friends?) Anyway. I miss my friends because I really like the squad from this book.
They really seem like they have fun together and love each other and whatnot. It makes me miss my squad. But now I’m feeling things and you guys know I’m profoundly anti-feeling so I’m going to move on.
The ~male love interest~ in this, Max, is very cute. More contemporaries should have nerdy guys! That
fictional concept of a kind jock dating the not-so-popular girl is nice and all, but we all know nerdy guys are where it’s at for book boyfriends. And real-life boys too, I guess. Whatever.
Max – and boring old Paige, our main character – are also in this fun thing called QuizBowl! They compete in trivia competition type things. I don’t really know. I don’t even know if it’s real or not. I just know I like trivia (QuizUp! Jeopardy! TriviaCrack! Review games before tests! Sign me up for all of the above) and this was a fun part of the book and I wish there was more more more.
There were also lots of fun literary and TV show references, which I’m always into. Love pop culture, baby. Paige goes to a program at NYU, which was my dream school and my number 1 choice all the way up until I got in and remembered I don’t have $70k a year to just throw around. She also wants to be a screenwriter, which was my dream job for a time! What I’m trying to say here is that a lot of my interests are covered in this book.
This book also covered its bases, diversity-wise. I read the first fifty pages of this long before the rest (I’ve had an awful habit of doing that lately – I’m going to be so confused when I finally deign to pick up Falling Kingdoms). Anyway, I don’t remember the physical descriptions of the characters, but I think at least one was mixed. And I’ll avoid spoilers, but if you read the whooooole book (including bonus scenes) you get some LGBT action. Yay! Good job hurray!
Well, not very good job, I guess. Kind of the bare minimum. But when most YA doesn’t even seem to be hitting the lowest of lows, it’s hard not to hand out trophies for the little things.
Anyway, when it comes down to it, this book had the it factor I’m always looking for with contemporaries. Do you guys know what I’m talking about? That fun, addictive feeling the worthwhile contemporaries have. I feel like I’m constantly looking for that and like, never finding it. So I enjoyed it while this book lasted.
Which, speaking of…boy did this book last. No contemporary needs to be four hundred pages long. None. Hit that 300 page sweet spot and move the hell on. And the beginning of this book wasn’t even GOOD. Remember earlier when I said I read the first fifty pages of this a long time ago? Yeah. Not a good sign.
Now, this book ended up being a fun ride anyway. But the beginning wasn’t. Like, at all. Maybe that has something to do with how our protagonist is a massive, steaming pile of boring. I was expecting her cool group of friends to ditch her, like, the whole time. She brings nothing to the table. She just absorbs their jokes and whines a lot. Which is fair, because her boyfriend died. But that’s no excuse for not being FUNNY.
Going off of that, there’s some weird stuff about death and mourning going on in this book. Like, Paige was only dating Mr. Dead Boyfriend for…a month I think? (Again, it’s been awhile since I was actually introduced to this story.) That’s the excuse we’re given for why she’s mostly fine and absolutely REARING to go to town on a popular jock. But even though she recognizes her sadness as not being equivalent to the best friend of Colonel McDeadFace…she never really tells the best friend that. She just accepts his help and whatnot. It’s a lil weird.
AND HAHAHAHA OH MY GOD HOW DID I FORGET THIS. Max has this very strange speaking quirk that is introduced in the weirdest way. When he sees Paige, he often says – wait for it – “Hey, girl.”HAHAHAHA. Why?! It made me laugh every time. Like, this nerdy character, stealing the following catchphrase from Ryan goddamn Gosling? Which is already supposed to be ironic? As in, even the most beautiful man in America can’t fully pull off that line? Hilarious.
And when he says it, Paige says something so bizarre and fangirly. Something to the effect of, It’s not what I’d expect Captain Dork to say. It reminds me of something my Platonic Girlfriends™ would say, except I’m a mushy pile of hormones when he says it! It’s so forced and uncomfortable.
And speaking of forced and uncomfortable! Emery Lord tries to do that clichéd contemporary author thing here, where you make it overwhelming clear that your books take place in the same world by namedropping other characters. Which is all well and good, except for that I hate her other books with every atom/fiber/dust mite/particle of my being and every time Lilah Montgomery was mentioned I cringed so hard I feared becoming legally blind.
But other than that.
Bottom line: Yeah, read this. Why not? It’s fun, kind of. Definitely not perfect or one of my new favorites, exactly – and we’re still blood enemies, Emery – but it’s the summery read I was looking for.