By: Tom Leveen
April 24, 2012
Rating: I have to give it an R because of the open-door sex scene that happens. Otherwise, it would have only been a strong PG for language
Coffee Beans: 4.5/5
Spoilers: Some, but in order to protect the innocent, character names have been omitted
Favorite Line: Ever notice how much thing guys can eat? So not fair. (ebook, pg 108) When you're painting, you can see noise. Taste sound. Ten trillion neurons fire in your mind and trigger the fine muscles in your arms to do. (ebook, pg 128) Ain't that the truth. Boy howdy, I tell ya, when I decide to make a shit situation shittier, I commit. (ebook, pg 236)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this honest review
For aspiring artist Amanda Walsh, who only half-jokingly goes by the nickname Zero, the summer before college was supposed to be fun—plain and simple. Hanging out with her best friend Jenn, going to clubs, painting, and counting down the days until her escape. But when must-have scholarship money doesn't materialize, and she has a falling out with Jenn that can only be described as majorly awkward, and Zero's parents relationship goes from tense to relentless fighting, her prospects start looking as bleak and surreal as a painting by her idol Salvador Dali. Will life truly imitate art?
Will her new, unexpected relationship with a punk skater boy who seems too good to be real and support from the unlikeliest of sources show Zero that she's so much more than a name.
Here's the thing:
I REALLY pretty much loved this book. Discuss.
Tom Leveen does an epic job of writing this story from a seventeen-year-old girl's perspective (which is actually somewhat unsettling), creating a believable and genuine voice for Zero and a rollercoaster of emotions. It's so good in fact, that it took me a little while to get into it. I know, that sounds a bit conflicting, but I don't know how else to describe it, other than, after a few chapters, I was hooked and couldn't put the book down. The voice is so fluid and natural throughout the entire story. The Conflict artfully constructed,
and all the relationship dynamics unfold so naturally and they have such an organic flow from one to the other, it's like I'm living through high school all over again. And the fact that it's a male author writing from a female's perspective so dang well is impressive. There's also some really fantastic dialogue.
This book is first and foremost about relationships. And how dysfunctional and broken and confusing and wonderful they can be. Tom writes these relationships so realistically; I experienced them right alongside Zero. The betrayal and confusion from a best friend. A first love. The cloudiness about your future and how you thought it was going to unfold. These are all powerful and well executed. When I was shown the relationship between Zero's parents, my heart broke and I was sick to my stomach. The source of the fallout between Zero and her best friend, Jenn, (which the MC tells you about in the beginning so I'm not spoiling anything here) was so completely out of left field, I just kinda sat on the couch saying, "Wow."
Leveen has the typical teenage angst (I hate using that word) and attitude down pat. Everything Zero says and does and how she reacts towards her parents is spot on. I kept nodding and laughing as I was reading, recognizing myself in some of those scenes (sorry mom for being the typical teenager and all that grey hair I'm now convinced is my fault).
And the author's funny. Zero's inner dialogue had me laughing out loud. The cynicism and sarcasm and humor is well-placed and well done. The plot is engaging and fast moving (only a few days to read the book), and so REALISTIC (I can't say that enough about this novel) I really did find myself sucked in, wanting to know how Zero's story would turn out.
There was only one thing I didn't care for: a scene between two characters that took place the parking lot of a coffee shop (you can pretty much guess where I'm going with this).
Here's the thing:
YA books are awesome on so many levels and for so many reasons. Discuss.
They're stories filled with characters discovering the world, love, hurt, pain, yada-yada-yada. YA books are able to broach topics that would otherwise be iffy or off limits in other genres, but we just barrel in, full steam ahead. Many books deal with drugs and alcohol and abuse. And sex (because, let's get real here, people, kids are experimenting and discovering that, too). Pretty much anything goes in YA.
But there's one rule, and it's a consensus with pretty much every literary agent, author, and publisher I've talked to: sex is okay to have in YA novels as long as it's behind closed doors. What does that mean? It means the reader knows what's happening but the author isn't taking us through the act with the MC. They typically take us up to the point of no return and then shut the door. Leave the rest up to the imagination (And I say typically, knowing there are some books out there that don't do that, Breaking Dawn, for example).
This book didn't do that, and it was somewhat disappointing for me. I'll say this—it didn't feel awkward or dirty or anything like that when the scene came about, it was a naturally progressing plot point, but it still was like—whoa. Um…pretty sure that door should have closed a long time ago. Don't get me wrong, it's an event that needed to happen because it's the foundation of several events, actions, feelings, and outcomes for the rest of the book. But that doesn't mean I had to be in the car with them, whistling awkwardly as I stared out the window, pretending I wasn't actually there while this was going on.
That's the only "negative" comment I have to say about the book.
Overall, I REALLY liked it. It was a great story about characters that were made real from the very beginning and about the everyday relationships in our lives.
Pick it up, read it, and decide for yourself, but I have a strong feeling you'll love it as much as I did. I will for sure be picking up Tom's first novel, Party.
Happy reading, my friends!