Wednesday, September 5, 2012

ARC Review: Over You by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Publisher:  HarperTeen
Release Date:  August 21st, 2012

After the grand explosion of her relationship, seventeen-year-old Max Scott developed what every girl in the history of the world has been waiting for: a way to get over being dumped. Now Max is the go-to guru for heartbroken high-school girls all over NYC. But when her ex unexpectedly shows up in her neighborhood, Max’s carefully controlled world starts to unravel. With her clients’ hearts hanging in the balance, Max will have to do the seemingly impossible: get over him once and for all.

Brilliant at bringing humor to the trials and tribulations of the lovestruck, #1 New York Times bestselling authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have crafted a tale that will resonate with any girl who has ever been in love or had her heart broken. It brims with smart observations, features a pitch-perfect teen voice, and will attract fans of Jenny Han, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Barnholdt. Readers are sure to fall head-over-heels for this sharp spin on breaking up, making up, and getting even.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I'll start off this review by saying that I'm a long-time fan of this writing duo.  I read The Nanny Diaries long before there was any talk of a film, and have read each of their other books, upon release, ever since.  To this day, Citizen Girl and Dedication are two of my all-time favorite fluffy Chick Lit books ever.  When I heard that they were publishing their first YA Contemporary novel, I knew I just HAD to review it.  I've always found their characters relatable and I have always felt great at the end, after watching them grow.  They almost always start out rather insecure and damaged and grow, through their experiences, into confident, mature heroines who know that they can fend for themselves.  When I found out about Over You, I thought to myself, "Wow. If anyone could empower young girls with circumstances they can relate to, it would be these ladies!"  When I got my advance copy, I was excited to dig in.  I'd missed the Emma's and Nicola's snarky wit and endearing girl-power themes...  So did it work for me?

For about the first 75 pages or so, I was disappointed.  I felt like the writing wasn't of the same quality as their other books.  I got the impression that they were dumbing it down for their intended audience, and to be honest, that made me feel resentful.  There wasn't as much of the sharp wit and depth of character I had grown used to from their other books, and I (wrongly) assumed it was due to the fact that they didn't think this younger audience would be able to handle it.  I was the one at fault for that though, because once I thought about it, I realized that these younger characters just aren't going to have the benefit of life experience that the ladies in their other books have had.  Of COURSE a 17 year old isn't going to have the depth of a 25 year old, just like a 25 year old won't have the wisdom of a 50 year old.  Once I looked at it with the eyes of a teenager, I realized that what I was looking for was there all along; that it wasn't "dumbed down", it was just put in a perspective that I haven't had in awhile.  Once I came to that horrible epiphany that I am OLD (and therefore wise), I was able to thoroughly enjoy this sweet, funny, uplifting, coming-of-age story for what is is.  So, where do I go from here?

Max, our protagonist, is great girl, who has a really tough veneer over her amazing heart.  She desires nothing more that to help the brokenhearted, and that is what she sets out to do, by creating Ex Inc, a service that helps people get over being dumped.  Lots of people have great ideas, but very few have the capacity to execute them. The fact that Max has the ability to do this makes her fabulous by itself, but there is much more to Max, and that is what this story is about.  You see, unfortunately, she hasn't come to terms with her own broken heart.  That provides somewhat of a stumbling block to her plans of healing the masses of their broken hearts when her douchey ex moves to town.  Fortunately for her, she has some fantastic friends to help her through it, even if she isn't necessarily aware of it... Aside from Max, her long-time BFF Zach is my favorite character.  He's the type of guy I would want as a BFF; he's smart, funny, supportive-but-not-enabling, and he tells it like it is.  Then there were Bridget, Phoebe, and Ben, all with their own issues, but all key in Max's growth.  The friendships and emotional moments are what make this story, and while I was certain Max would overcome her obstacles, I still wanted to be there for the ride.  Everyone has had their heart broken, and everyone loves to see someone rise above it.  This story is sweet, lighthearted, and believable.  There were parents to get in the way of plans at times, and things didn't always go perfectly for anyone.  Even the romantic aspects were sometimes hard, because relationships often are, but they were very real, age-appropriate, and sweet.  You won't find a lot of thought-provoking, life-altering stuff in this book, like I did with the last book I reviewed, Every Day by David Levithan (read my review HERE), but it will make you smile, which is what Emma and Nicola do best with their writing.

Overall, if you are a fan of well-written YA Contemporary Romance (think Anna and the French Kiss), you will like Over You.  If you are a fan of the authors already, and like YA, give it a go.  If you are looking for something light and fun, where the heroine emerges victorious, look no further!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  There is some talk of sex and hooking up and it's clear that Max and Hugo have had sex, as have many of Max's clients.  For me that's not a problem, but for some parents, it is.  That said, this book is appropriate at whatever age you think it is appropriate for a reader to be aware that a large percentage of teens have sex, and are comfortable reading about that fact.  For my daughter, that would be about age 11.  To clarify, there are no graphic descriptions or endorsements, it's just stated matter-of-factly that it's happened between characters on a few occasions, and implied on other occasions.

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