Author: Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.Review by Nara
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.
For me, A Really Awesome Mess was exactly that: a really awesome mess. Both the main characters, Justin and Emmy (and actually pretty much every character we encounter) have issues. Big issues. Justin is an apparent sexual deviant and suffers from depression. Emmy has anorexia and low self esteem. Both of them have anger management. But what is remarkable about this book, is that these issues don't necessarily take away from the humour and the resilience of the characters. Their issues don't define them. And that's what makes this book awesome. Completely, totally, absolutely awesome.
There is an outstanding cast of supporting characters who are also, let's be honest, messes, but still have this underlying strength and individuality to them which brings an interesting flavour into the story. Seriously, the book is full of really awesome messes. Jenny's selective mutism, Diana's violence, Chip and Mohammed's problems (which I'm not going to say because spoilers): these don't hide how sarcastic, how funny and how strong the characters are. The interactions between the characters (obviously) build up their friendships and I loved seeing how they helped each other deal with their issues. Their many, many issues.
There was an element of romance in the novel, although it certainly wasn't the focus. I felt that this romance was well paced and nicely built. Most of all, I felt that it was realistic (well, definitely a heck of a lot more realistic than the pig thing. Read the book if you want to know what that is). Despite the issues of the characters (or maybe because of them), the romance was surprisingly sweet and heartwarming.
"A funny, sad, and remarkable story"- for once, I actually completely agree with the tag line in the blurb. So often, the blurb appears to be describing a completely different book, but here, I think that you can actually trust it. Basically, Cook and Halpin: I applaud you.
Really liked it