The Unwritten Rule

Boy was I grumpy last night and this book is to blame….. I will explain but let me give you the set up first.

You know what the unwritten rule between girls is right?  You do not, I mean do not, steal your best friend’s boyfriend (yes connections to recent read – 6 Rules of Maybe).  You don’t crush on him, and you most certainly do not KISS him when he is still with your best friend, and maybe not even after.  Now we can debate this rule – and I suppose it has been, but it is the unwritten rule, at least of this title.

Sarah has a crush on Ryan, she has since the 8th grade, but no one really knows that, not even her best friend, Brianna.  Which might be why when Ryan turns up totally hot at the end of the summer Brianna turns her full wattage on him and now they are dating.  And since a) Sarah never said anything its not like Brianna broke that unwritten rule and b) since Sarah assumes no boy would like her over Brianna she just accepts this fact.  But it isn’t that easy, because there is something there – between Sarah and Ryan, and Ryan and Brianna may not be working out.

So grumpitude….. here is the thing about the story.  Brianna is both casually mean and totally fragile.  She has pretty much destroyed Sarah’s self esteem over the years, although Sarah’s personality allowed that to happen.  And it wasn’t on purpose.  The situation with Brianna’s parents (bitter divorce, working all the time, and casually and not so casually mean themselves) has left her self esteem pretty f’ed up too.  Sarah has the loving family that Brianna has slowly become a part of, but Brianna has all the attention.  The constant “brush your hair” or “we can find you a freshman to date” are what I mean by ‘casually mean’.  So you hate Brianna just a bit, but you also feel sorry for her.  And while the inevitablity of the ending is obvious to the reader, it is going to hit Brianna like a freight train, and because ultimately she is fragile you feel a little sorry for her.

I had this friend.  She could make you feel like the coolest, most important person in the world one minute, and like nothing the next.  She had unwritten rules she wasn’t afraid to break, but Lord, you didn’t want to be the one to break them.  And the thing is for a vast lot of people I don’t have an identity separate from that relationship, and frankly we haven’t talked in 20 years but I am still guilty/angry/sad/insecure about all of that.  So reading this book just dredged a whole lot of crap up – hence, grumpitude.

I am not sure what this book is – romance? well sort of.  friendship? yes that too.  Finding yourself? yep.  Families in all their glory and horror?  Oh yeah.  I’ve been reading mean girls lately (here for example) so it was interesting to read a mean girl who wasn’t intentional, at least at first.

I really like Elizabeth Scott, and in some way this reminded me of The Boyfriend List in similar theme.  The casual meanness, the girl relationship, etc. but boy was I grumpy.

Others thoughts:

The Bookologist liked it.

So did Insanity of Writerhood

An interview:

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The 6 Rules of Maybe

1. Respect the power of hope and possibilities. Begin with belief.  Hold on to it.

Perhaps it should say don’t fall in love with your sister’s husband, because that is what Scarlet does, and when that happens all the anger, and hurt, and confusion of her life comes pouring out in some not so attractive, but entirely understandable ways.   The thing is I get that Scarlet is angry at her sister for a while lot of reasons but I am not so sure she treats her all that well for someone who is supposedly a caretaker, and this may be the part that Caletti didn’t quite capture me with in this novel.  That said I love Deb Caletti’s novels (The Nature of Jade is my favorite).  She writes literary romance quite well.

If I were to dissect Scarlet – I’d point out that falling in love with Hayden is the easy way out, no risk taken.  Like her sister who won’t fall in love – no risk.  I get that falling in love with your sister’s husband is not ‘safe’ but it is because Scarlet can’t act on it, not really, and it keeps her from truly engaging with the world around her – recognizing the obvious in people her own age.

This is of course Caletti’s point – no risk, really no possibilities of truly experiencing love, hope, even life.  So sometimes you have to leap, move to Africa to start a cocoa plantation you bought over email, say no to the marriage proposal so you don’t settle, let yourself fall in love with the father of your child, and kiss the boy who you hadn’t thought of kissing before.

You know I said Scarlet isn’t engaged with the world around her, and that isn’t really true – she cares about her neighbors, to the point of creating something wonderful for one of them.  And she sets up a couple at school (with some serious consequence) but all of that is a bit of not engaging with herself you know, not noticing the friend that takes advantage, or the source of why she is really pissed off, and how to respond to that.

It has taken a bit to write about this – I wasn’t totally sure about what to say.  It was a hard book to get my head (and my heart) around.  Caletti does that for me sometimes, but ultimately I end up respecting the story, and fundamentally the writing.

Love you, hate you, miss you

I am turning 40 this year.  I am surprised by this.  I do not feel like I thought 40 would feel back when I thought 40 was old.  While I can’t say that I am issue-y about this, I am surprised by the fact that I am almost 40.

I bring this up because if there is one thing about being old, well older, and reading YA is that sometimes the hindsight I read with makes the issues that protagonists have seem like less of a deal to me, than to them.  For sure I felt this way about Hannah Baker.  I have this sort of adult voice in my head that says you will get over this, sure it’ll be with you but you’ll live and someday it won’t even be so awful.  And sometimes I have a hard time with all the ANGST.

So in terms of this book – yes Amy it sucks to see your best friend die after you set her up for a heartbreaking moment.  The kind of moment she would have gotten over.  And someday you’ll be ok.  And some day you won’t spend your every waking moment thinking you are a murderer.  (There are some similarities between this and Cracked Up to Be, well a lot.)  And I know this is about getting there, to that day.  And I am worried and concerned for you.  However as a reader I could not leave this  perspective behind, that really all this melodrama is just a bit too, too much for me.

But don’t get me wrong.  This is MY response to a book that is well written.  Elizabeth Scott is a bit all over the map.  I mean there is this, this, this, and this.  AND then there is this.  But I really like her.  I will continue to read her books in hardback because of that – which is a great compliment.  I like the serious romance, and I respect Living Dead Girl (made me ill reading this book, but in a good emotional response way, I think)

Something, Maybe

Sometimes you want something familiar.  With one brutal exception (an amazing book but brutal) Elizabeth Scott delivers on the familiar.

In Something, Maybe familiar is what you get.  And I don’t necessarily think that is bad in case anyone thinks I do.

First there is the great opening line: Everyone’s seen my mother naked.

It turns out not completely naked but you know, naked enough.  And of course having the Internet version of Hugh Hefner, with his own reality show doesn’t help so Hannah handles it by hiding.  I’ve worked long and hard to be invisible at Slaterville High, an anonymous student in the almost 2,000 that attend, and I want it to stay that way.

But that isnt always easy (especially when ratings start slipping), and she doesn’t want to be so invisible that Josh doesn’t see her.  And Finn sees her but he is kind of annoying (to Hannah at least who is predictably blind to what is really going on there, man! he blushes a lot – shouldn’t that give it away?).

You know the Sarah Dessen fans will love this genre of Elizabeth Scott – of course God help anyone who thinks that is what they are getting with Living Dead Girl.  Finn is a Wes, Owen, Dex, even Marcus Flutie literay crush guy.  So much better than dead sparkley stalker types (Hey, I think I want a tshirt that says Own Armstrong – so much better than dead sparley stalker types).  Josh is well, obvious and predictable.  The parents are flawed, but Mom comes through.

Comfort food.

Perfect You

When I am nervous I am an utter complete total bitch.  And woe to anyone who tries to be nice to me.  When I was in high school this led to many fights with my mother, who did not have the option of hiding out in the shop like my dad did while I got ready for some event.  Now I know what is going on and I try not to be so awful, but sometimes I just can’t help it . . .  which is why I related to Kate, particularly in her relationship with Will.

Everything is going wrong in Kate’s life – her father has quit his job and is selling vitamins at the mall (and not very successfully), her brother has graduated from college and moved home, her best friend isn’t talking to her now that she is popular, and now her grandmother is moving in and causing tension in the family.  There is no way she is going to believe, or trust, that Will might like her.  And she is determined not to like him.  Which is why it is so confusing when he kisses her, or she kisses him, or whatever it is that is happening.  Kate doesn’t do a tremendous amount of growing . . . but then again she has a lot of reasons to be bitter and angry, and it isn’t like they go away in some magical Hollywood moment at the end of the book.  But she does enough for the book to be satisfying.  And she is funny, this rescues her from being whiny.

This is the second Elizabeth Scott book I’ve read recently.  I finally got around to Bloom, which I also liked.  But this one I liked just a little tiny bit more.