by Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin
Publication Date: July 23rd 2013
Source: ARC from the Publisher (Thanks Egmont!)
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Justin was just having fun - a lot of fun - when his dad found him and a girl in a compromising position. Add that fallout to his parents' divorce, a handful of Tylenol, and a pumped stomach, and it's clear that Justin is at rock bottom.
Emmy never felt like part of the family. Adopted from China, her parents and sister look like Ralph Lauren catalog. Emmy definitely doesn't. After a naked photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens to remove the man parts of the boy who shared it all on Facebook.
Enrolled at Heartland Academy - a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues - Justin and Emmy join a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. Their goal - to bust out of the school for a night of epic fun and in the end, they might just call each other friends.
I feel like this cover does not do this book justice. After all, it's just some boring cafeteria tray with a fork on it, and this book is so much more than cafeteria trays and forks. SO MUCH MORE.
A Really Awesome Mess is a story of friendship, reform school, love, a state fair, and pigs. Yep, you read that right, pigs.
You'd be surprised how important pigs are in this story.
Emmy and Justin are two teenagers sent off to Heartland Academy, Emmy because of online bullying, and Justin because he accidentally on purpose tried to kill himself. Neither teen wants to be at reform school, but neither one has a choice. Slowly the two come to realize that Heartland Academy isn't as bad as they thought it would be. Sure, they have psychoanalyzing therapists and people watching their every move, but on a whole it isn't too bad. With the help of their anger management therapy group they may just come to enjoy being at Heartland Academy, and they may just discover that life is beautiful, even when it's hard.
A Really Awesome Mess shines because it's honest. It's probably the most honest portrayal of teenagers that I have ever read in a YA novel. In fact, sometimes I felt like it was a bit too honest (porn was discussed about 5 too many times) but I still appreciated the honesty. Too often authors skirt issues and just sort of brush them under the table or they decide to sort of sprinkle them into their story without doing enough research to actually do them justice. That is not the case with A Really Awesome Mess. Not only was everything dealt with in a super upfront fashion (absolutely nothing was watered down), but there was also no hint of disrespect for anyone who deals with the same issues, and that's saying a lot for a YA novel.
A Really Awesome Mess also has a whole slew of fantastic characters. Each one was multi-faceted and brought just the right touches of humor and depth to the story. The way the characters conversed and interacted reminded me a bit of a John Green novel, minus the slightly unrealistic narrative that normally plagues his books. Yes, I love John Green and all of his books but I'll be the first to admit that teenagers do not really speak like that. These characters on the other hand use language that is much more characteristic of the average teenager. On the protagonist front, Emmy was a super sarcastic spit-fire. I loved her spirit and her stubbornness, even if it did tend to flesh itself out in unhealthy ways. As for Justin he was pretty much the perfect mix of jerk and nice guy; the classic teen dude that you love to hate, but eventually can't hate anymore because he's so damn loveable. As for the supporting characters my favorites would have to be Jenny, a selective mute with a huge love for pigs, and Wilbur, a pig escapee from the state fair because hey, I love pigs.
I just have to give mad props to Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin for pulling off the dual narrative of this novel so well. I'm not sure if they wrote for a specific character (Trish writing Emmy's chapters and Brendan writing Justin's) or if they wrote for both, but regardless Emmy and Justin each had their own unique voices and it was easy to tell the two of them apart. I love dual narrative when it's done right, and this was definitely done right.
I also just have to mention the setting of Heartland Academy because as awful as that place sounded, Cook and Halpin also managed to make it sound like fun. No one really wants to get sent off to reform school, but the camaraderie of the characters and the shenanigans they all got into made it seem like the kind of community I would want to be a part of. The characters were that awesome.
Oh and even though there is a bit of romance in this book, it was definitely not of the insta-love variety. HALLELUJAH.
All in all, A Really Awesome Mess is a really awesome book. It's honest, hilarious, and the best contemporary I've read all year. If you're a fan of John Green, or other dual narrative books like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist then I definitely think you'll love A Really Awesome Mess.
Now it's time for the giveaway! And believe me you definitely want to win this book. Heck, I wish I could win my own giveaway for this book. :P
This giveaway is open to residents of the US only. To enter, just fill out the handy dandy Rafflecopter form below!