Thursday, July 18, 2013
ARC Review: A Really Awesome Mess
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.
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