Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Club Discussion: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Provisions and Paperbacks, my IRL book club, recently read Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park. As I said in my previous post (you can read it here), I want to share some thoughts and ideas brought up during the book club and bring my blog readers into the discussion.

Not yet, but there will be spoilers. You have been warned.

Flat-Out Love 
by Jessica Park
Published April 11, 2011

Flat-Out Love is a warm and witty novel of family love and dysfunction, deep heartache and raw vulnerability, with a bit of mystery and one whopping, knock-you-to-your-knees romance.

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it.

When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side ... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that ... well ... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

Flat-Out Love comes complete with emails, Facebook status updates, and instant messages.

There will be spoilers. You have been warned.

Here are some thoughts shared during our book club discussion after reading Flat-Out Love:

Flat-Out Love was another book that everyone in the book club raved about. Even before we met, I received these messages:

"I have finished the book for our next meeting and whoever picked it two thumbs up it was great.""I finished the book last night and can’t wait to talk about it Tuesday. I’ve been telling my boss lady . . . about our book club and gave her the names of some of the books we’ve read and the book we’re reading for our Tuesday meeting. She finished it in two days or something like that."

  •  Flat-Out love was nominated for our book club by our newest book club member. She wasn't familiar with the author but the book popped up time and time again as an "Amazon recommends"
  • At first it wasn't obvious what the deal was with Finn and they thought that the little sister just missed him and the Flat-Finn was just a place-holder until he returned. Other readers picked up on it pretty early on, but gave in to the idea so they could be swept up in the story. 
  • Some readers questioned if there was an incident between Finn and Celeste that kept him from coming home.
  • The banter between Julie and Matt was witty and clever, easy and immediate, and made the book incredibly enjoyable to read. Both Julie and Matt kept each other on their toes.
  • The Facebook status updates added to the story and I was always trying to figure out if true identities or motives would be revealed through the updates. Were there any obvious clues?
  • The character Seth wasn't convincing as a real possible love interest for Julie, but he is in one of my favorite scenes - when he goes back and forth with Celeste answering all of her questions about his intentions of getting to know Julie. 
  • We all loved Celeste and her quirks and mannerisms. She did seem wise beyond her years but she had dealt with a lot in her family which is what made her seem older in someways (even though she dressed very young for her age). And Julie probably identified with her so easily because Julie saw so much in herself in Celeste - her intelligence, her awkwardness, and this was why they were connected almost instantly.
  • We didn't talk about Matt's mother too much, but we did recognize that her depression played a major role in how the family interacted and how many of the decisions were made based on what she wanted.
  • Another favorite scene - after Julie is stood up by her dad, drunk dials Matt and asks, "Are you a skilled lover?" This is quite possible one of the best moments of the book.
  • When Julie sets up Matt with her friend Dana, you're not quite sure what really happened between the two of them because Dana just laughs it off. No spoilers here, but you must read Flat-Out Matt to find out what really happened
  • We don't plan to read Flat-Out Matt for book club, but we all plan to read it. (I've already read it and love the extra before and after chapters. And I was glad that it wasn't the complete story as Flat-Out Love just from Matt's POV.)
  • I personally liked reading about places I have visited when I traveled to Boston. It was pretty cool to know some of the locations described in the books and yes there are a ton of Dunkin' Donuts in the area. Reading about them made me want to go out and get a Coolatta, but unlike Boston, and more like where Julie is from, there isn't one on every other corner.
  • The Book Cover - It's cool how hints of the story are incorporated in the letters of Flat-Out Love. Some of us picked up on it, but others didn't at all. And what was so obvious, the hinges connected the letters together (and the hinges are important to the story) - I didn't even notice those at all!  
  • Flat-Out Love was a hit with the book club - it drummed up a lot of conversation (not all was captured here) and is one of those books that you want to share with your friends. There is a lot of humor, but it's not all good times. It exposes the struggles a family goes through after a huge tragedy.

       Goodreads * Amazon * IndieBound

I'd like to invite anyone to join in on the discussion and share your thoughts on Flat-Out Love!! Just leave your thoughts in the comments! 

Up next for Provisions and Paperbacks


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