I really enjoyed this story. I saw it on a list for new YA novels for this year and really looked forward to reading it. Then it was Owlcrate’s September subscription box featured read and I was ecstatic!
***Spoilers in this review***
When I read this book, I actually meant to just skim the first few pages, but twenty pages later, I was sucked in. I couldn’t pretend anymore that I was just going to see what it was about. I was immediately taken in by the main character Willow Dean. I love her voice and also her outlook on life. She has confidence, but there’s also a sense of vulnerablity as well. Her genuineness is sincere. I think she’d be someone I’d like to know in highschool.
I also enjoyed the secondary characters as well. Her best friend El, the motley crew of Millie, Amanda, Hannah–friends on the fringe who support Willow in different ways without her realizing it at times. Aunt Lucy, Lee & Dale, and her mother are great examples of adult support (sometimes her mother is hard to like). And Bo, the love interest–I will never look at a red sucker the same way ever!
My favorite part of the story is Willow’s character development. I really enjoyed how the author takes a convention–a fat girl (Willow calls herself this) living through the high school experience–and flips this troupe over. Will starts out being confident in who she is and is aware of her body image, but she doesn’t let it affect her outlook on how life should be. Her attitude and confidence are tested when Bo shows physical interest in her. Rather than the confident Will we’ve seen, she starts to doubt herself. I love how the author captures the vulnerabilty in her inexperience which I think any girl can identify with. A convenient incident occurs where she uses it as an excuse to stop seeing him, but in actuality she’s trying to prevent getting hurt before things get serious or worse, they don’t. During this period, she spends time doubting herself, but then signs up for the pagent. Her feelings are at odds–she doesn’t think she can have a relationship with Bo, but she participates in the pagent because her aunt wanted to, but never did, so Willow participates because she doesn’t want to live with the regrets her aunt had. I really enjoyed this inner conflict because life is never cut and dry.
Some reviews have brought up the possible love triangle in this story. Willow decides to stop seeing Bo and at this point, she and El are not on speaking terms. She finds a friend in Mitch who has always been nice to her. If you’re worried about reading this because of the potential love triangle, I can tell you what this relationship was not:
• Willow doesn’t agonize who she should be with.
• Willow is not interested in making Bo jealous.
• Willow does not act like she does not know who she is neither does she act differently when she’s with one person or the other.
• Willow does not foresake all her friends for Bo.
• The rest of the story/plot is not forgotten to focus on who the heroine will be with.
This is what it is:
• Willow tries to find a friend when her best friend stops talking to her.
• Willow realizes she likes Bo a lot more than she admitted to herself and Mitch is just a friend.
• Willow knows she should tell Mitch how she feels, but is afraid of actually doing it.
I really don’t like love triangles especially the kind where the story suffers because the heroine’s indecision. It’s not to say that this story is completely free of love triangle elements (Willow begins to realize that Mitch’s feelings are more than just a friend and realizes she can’t return his feelings and feels bad about it). But, there isn’t the melodrama that some love triangles are proned to in YA.
I’d recommend this to readers 14 years old and up. No violence and language is relatively clean. Sex is discussed, but not described. This is for readers who enjoy a solid contemporary YA with a strong female lead and a light romance. I also recommend this to readers who want to read a story with diverse characters.