Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin


Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.




Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin's summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents' divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog-- and Emmy definitely doesn't. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.

A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.

I read a book about a year ago by the same author duo, Notes from the Blender about two kids who suddenly -- surprise! -- became step-siblings. And I loved it! It was honest and blunt but also funny! So when I saw this work by the same team, I was game. However, it, sadly, didn’t strike the same chord for me.

From the summary posted above you get the general idea what it’s about. Really, the whole premise is a bit misleading though because the strongest and best part of the book isn’t mentioned. Yes, we have Justin and Emmy and their screwed up heads, but there’s also Diana, Chip, Mohammed and Jenny. The six of them form something like the Breakfast Club for messed up kids. This group dynamic was easily the most interesting thing and it’s full potential was sadly not reached.

Obviously, we get two POVs. Justin and Emmy. Two, limited, very angry, angsty and a slightly whiny POVs. In fact, other than Justin constantly thinking about sex and other fellatio-related things and Emmy constantly thinking about calories, fat in food and body image, it’s fairly easy to confuse their voices. And I did. I’d put the book down, come and completely forget whose section I was in and then I’d have either flip back, or wait until a dialog tag or a character reference to figure it out. Whoops. While I’m hesitant with more than 3 or 4 POVs, I really think some of the other characters should have been included. I’d love to get in the heads of Diana, Mohammed and Jenny for a bit and if nothing else for some different flavor.

While I did want a lot more from the book in ways, I still liked it overall. It still had the element of totally blunt humor that I loved so much in Notes from the Blender that resulted in a few L-O-L moments while riding the subway. And if you’re looking for a fast, light-ish read with a whole lot of love for pigs (no really), check it out!

Similar recommendations: Clean by Amy Reed and Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay.

-Reviewed by Jennifer

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