A Really Awesome Mess
by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Published by Egmont USA
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
Source: ARC from Media Masters Publicity and Egmont USA
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Indiebound
A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.
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.
A Really Awesome Mess really does serve up a mess and I enjoyed every moment of it. The fun cover and the comparison to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Juno appealed to me and made me want to read about Emmy and Justin and their experience at Heartland Academy. It is witty, a bit raunchy (but not too much), sometimes a little far-fetched (but weirder things have happened), and completely entertaining.
While the book itself is relatively short (could be read in just a few hours), it took me several days to read it because real life events kept me from reading it straight through. But the characters and their conversations left an impression on me that I didn't have to go back a read previous paragraphs or pages. They were so memorable that I could pick up right where I left off.
I liked all of the pop-cultural references scattered through-out the book. This keeps the story current and lets readers know that it happening right now, but I'm curious how this will be accepted by readers in the future. Will they understand the references because they are so specific or will it date the story? I always wonder about this when reading books with a lot of pop-culture references.
Another thing that I like about A Really Awesome Mess was that there is a balance between the humorous episodes and the serious moments. I think the authors did an incredible job of showing how all pain is relevant and shouldn't be rated, compared, or easily dismissed. Each kid is at Heartland Academy for a reason and one is not more important than the other. Pain is pain. One passage that stuck with me was when Justin, who is clinically depressed, shared his thoughts, connecting his pain and anger:
"It was just like the act of being alive hurt so freaking much that if anybody touched me I thought I might shattered into a million pieces.
And this brittle feeling was really closely related to the anger. Because when you're in constant pain, people who aren't in pain were really annoying. And people asking you to do stuff you didn't want to do were even more annoying. Like, really, why the hell would you ask me to take out the garbage when it took every freaking ounce of energy just to feign normalcy while I was sitting here?" (pg. 98)Reading this passage made me take a pause because of it's intensity and honesty. And there were other passages that wowed me and one that even brought me to tears.
My emotions were all over the place while getting to know about these characters and they are again as I try to finish up this review because I'm making the book sound really intense. I want to share how funny I think it is and I laughed too many times to count. I guess all I can say is that A Really Awesome Mess lets the reader experience it all.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Media Masters Publicity and EgmontUSA in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any way other than the ARC provided. Quotes are taken from the ARC and may differ from the final version. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
If A Really Awesome Mess sounds like the kind of book you would want to read, then you are in for a treat. EgmontUSA has generously offered one hardcover copy for giveaway to one of my blog readers.
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