Adorable, G-rated, YA romantic comedy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: July 25, 2016
Length: 235 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
In spite of two interrelated learning disabilities, ADHD and dysgraphia, Mandy Pennington is a relatively well-adjusted, outgoing, socially connected teenager. She’s barely dated and is quite innocent, even though she is around 17 years old (though it’s her birthday at the beginning of the book, her age is never overtly stated). She’s had a crush since elementary school on a guy she considers a sweet, geeky, non-threatening type, her friend Gus. When he casually invites her to a wild, kegger-type party, which is not something Mandy would normally attend, because she does not drink or hook up like everyone else at such parties, she happily accepts, hopefully assuming that maybe, at long last, Gus is ready to move her out of the friend zone and date her. Alas, it is not to be. Gus immediately deserts her to hook up with another girl. Mandy is hit on by drunk, sleazy guys, and wishes nothing more than to escape, but she is stranded with no way to get home. Until out of the blue, a “Rebel without a Cause” type of guy named Caleb, whom she’d never normally talk to, rescues her from yet another crew of predatory guys, this time an obnoxious band of stoners, and offers her a ride home. Thus begins a cute and captivating relationship which involves Caleb’s suggesting that they engage in a mutually beneficial, fake, romantic relationship. She can help him discourage his stalker ex-girlfriend, and she can inspire clueless Gus with enough jealousy to see her, at long last, in a romantic light.
In a young adult genre overrun with adolescent angst, it is always a delight to me to encounter a romantic comedy, especially a mostly G-rated one which, even so, manages to have strong chemistry between the romantic protagonists.
I really enjoyed the attraction of extreme opposites of outgoing, bubbly, Pollyanna-type Mandy and disaffected, intellectual loner, Caleb. I love “nerd” heroes who are not promiscuous, and Caleb fits the bill on both. I also enjoy a fake relationship plot in romance novels (whether YA or adult), and in this case, there is a delightful, and often quite funny progression of the relationship between Mandy and Caleb. In addition, these two highly sympathetic characters embody the ideal of excellence in a romance plot, wherein the romantic protagonists gradually bring out the best in each other as, through their connection, they inspire each other to grow and change in very positive ways.
I really liked Mandy’s two best friends, who are an additional source of comedy in this story. In particular, I found the subplot between Caleb and Mandy’s gay best friend extremely well done. He and Caleb were best friends from kindergarten to second grade, a relationship in which the Power Rangers were a central part. They lost touch when Caleb was sent from public to private school for many years until recently. In the course of this story, the two boys rediscover their friendship due to their mutual connection to Mandy. The many references between them of the Power Rangers as an ongoing motif is both amusing and emotionally compelling. The superhero attributes of the Power Rangers becomes a recurring metaphor for achieving the positive character trait of protecting and defending people he cares about that is part of Caleb’s growth arc in the story.
Overall, this is a very entertaining read, and I intend to search out more books by this author.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 4