Thursday, July 18, 2013

ARC Review: A Really Awesome Mess

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
4/5 stars
EgmontUSA, 2013
275 pages
YA Contemporary
Scheduled to release July 23

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to read this because of previous experiences with these authors' writing (Notes From the Blender was coauthored by them and Halpin cowrote these two others with another writer: The Half-Life of Planets and Tessa Masterson WILL Go to Prom). Like those books, this alternates between a male and a female perspective allowing for more insight into character and the relationships around them while also touching on romance and deeper family issues. As a bonus, this was definitely my favorite of these cowritten books, as I found it hilarious and moving despite the unlikely setting of a reform school for teens with psychiatric problems.

We first meet Emmy who does not feel wanted within her family, being the tiny adopted Chinese daughter while her perfect younger sister is obviously the favorite. She also has anger issues and, as is observed by our other narrator, is anorexic. That other narrator is Justin who ends up in the reform school due to his sexual activities and a suicide attempt, revealing his battle with depression. The two of them plus four others form an offbeat group that together begins to face their issues and develop appropriate ways of handling them.

What I enjoyed most was definitely the humor, which I wasn't really expecting. Though the synopsis teases funny, I figured it would be more serious as the characters have very real dark problems. As someone who loves comedy, I appreciated the lighter touch here though some of the reviews I've seen seemed to want it handled more seriously. I can see where that desire comes from but I was fine to just enjoy the laughter.

My favorite parts come from the characters interacting. For example, when the group first starts meeting, they all hate each other. However incentives cause them to band together and really progress in their healing. I loved all of the group scenes and couldn't believe everything they managed to get up to in such a restricted setting. Now I do think the adventure toward the end was way over the top (it involves leaving campus to set free a smuggled pig) but in keeping with the lightweight tone of the book overall.

Unfortunately the humor does somewhat trivialize the serious problems faced by the kids. I had some trouble rationalizing that in my head. I can sometimes over-empathize with book characters so I desperately wanted them all to be healed and to receive the love and care they need to build better lives while also realizing that such healing doesn't happen over night. I wouldn't want to suggest that depression, anorexic, etc. was something to laugh about and yet I also understand the desire to put these issues in the light and show that they can be faced, especially if you have good friends who make you laugh. (I think this paragraph may be a bit muddled but it all makes sense in my head, I promise!)

Content warning: Some language, violence, and sexual talk and situations-I found it all very organic and fitting but I'm sure it would bother some readers.

Other Opinions:
Books and Things
Litchick's Hit List
Realm of Fiction

16 comments:

  1. I've never heard of A Really Awesome Mess nor neither of the authors, but it sounds like an interesting read. I love contemporary YA that are unexpected and inspiring and humorous, but like you, I tend to really feel and root for the characters of a book if they are struggling with personal issues. I'll definitely keep this one in mind.

    Great review! : )

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    1. This was such a fun, light read-a definite palate cleanser between darker heavier books.

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  2. The humor and the character interactions sound great.

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  3. Yes it did make light of serious situations, but then again, it was written for teens and I think the authors wanted to show that there is light even within the dark (at least that is what I believe). I was surprised by this book and enjoyed it. What I had a hard time with is the facility they were in. It was too unrealistic to me. Still, loved the way those kids all came together! Loved your review!

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    1. I had no familiarity so the fact that some of the elements seemed unrealistic didn't really bother me, except for the pig stuff which strained even my credulity.

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  4. I've seen this cover but I never really knew much about it. Sounds like it has humor, which is definitely a good thing for me, but not if it is just there to take away from serious issues. I think I may skip this one. Thanks for the review!

    Alise @ Readers in Wonderland

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    1. I think the humor is there to balance out the seriousness and I really appreciated it as someone who adores comedy.

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  5. I haven't really heard much about this one. I'm glad you enjoyed it, I like you and one those reader that just wants to fix people. I might have to see if I can find this one. Great review.

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    1. It made me feel really useless to just read but thankfully they had the tools and are on better paths by the end of the book.

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  6. I'm looking forward to checking this one out soon! I'm glad you liked it for the most part. =)

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    1. Hope you enjoy it too-I think it's definitely worth a read!

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  7. I've heard good things about this one. I recently read OCD Love Story and it was hilarious but dealt with serious stuff. I like some good humor to lighten the story up a bit. I think this might be one I'd enjoy!

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    1. I just finished OCD Love Story, which I thought was less funny but treated the compulsions much better.

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  8. Awesome review, I completely understood where you were coming from ... made me want to pick this one up, so ... thanks :)

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    1. Oh I like to hear that! Hope you enjoy it too :)

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