(Mary H.K. Choi, 2018)
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.
Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.
What I Liked
- She is easily the most likable character in the story. She is accepting and doesn’t give up easily, which works in the favor of both Sam and Penny (separately).
- I liked the duel POV and the inclusion of text messages. I think it would have been a little better if the text messages LOOKED like texts as opposed to being just written within the text of the book- I had some difficultly determining who was who for a while- but the idea was a good one. It created multiple layers to the story, which I liked.
- As much as I would like to deny this, the idea of two people developing an extremely close relationship via text messages is much more realistic now than it was in the past. It is not unheard of for people to speak daily, but not have physical contact for long periods of time (and it doesn’t affect their relationship). Unfortunately, text-relationships are much more common and I think that teens and young adults who grew up with and deal with these kinds of relationships frequently, will appreciate this attempt to bring it to YA fiction.
- I did really like his character as well. I can relate with his struggles to detach himself from an infatuation that is ultimately not good for him at all. I like that he works hard despite the crummy hand he was dealt and that he was able to let his guard down and trust this stranger in what felt like at the time, his lowest point.
- THE COVER
- I mean, COME ON! The pink with the white border, the gold lettering, and the artwork? SO so pretty. Actually, I had my copy of this book on my desk at work and my boss turned around and picked it up because she was so interested in the cover design.
- I liked that in this story, unlike in many contemporary YA, the focus wasn’t solely on the relationship between the two main characters. They each had their own “side stories” (if you will) that they talked to each other about, but ultimately dealt with on their own. It allowed the reader to focus on something other than the relationship itself once in a while, which I found to be refreshing.
What I Disliked
- Penny’s Relationship with her Mom
- I get the whole hating on her for acting immature, and feeling like the child is taking care of the adult thing. I can sympathize with Penny, and would even SPOILER have left her ass at the hospital without seeing her after being as dumb as she was, as Penny did. HOWEVER- I really don’t like that Penny channels all her anger and hatred towards her mom over an event that her mom had nothing to do with. I know that it was extremely traumatic, and I cannot even begin to explain trauma of that level, but I think that they should have left her friction with her mom as it was, and had her channel her rage and hatred towards something else. Like I said, I actually really liked the friction between Penny and her mother, because I feel like a lot of teens can relate to having parents who act immature, and I think that adding that additional rage over Penny’s traumatic event kind of counteracted the effect.
- Sam’s film project
- I just didn’t like that Sam gave those kids cigarettes.
- I feel like the ending was a little abrupt for me. Penny and Sam’s relationship has been building the entire novel. I would have liked a little more time with the resolution.
- “Awkward” meeting-
- This is just a little petty, but- everyone on Booktube and in the blogosphere who talked about this book all mention a “super awkward” meeting between the two main characters that results in them exchanging numbers anyway. It could just be me over hyping that one description, but I was a little disappointed with how not awkward the event was. I mean I guess it was awkward but I was expecting something devastating, like ripped pants in public or something like that. I don’t know.
I really enjoyed this book. I was barely able to put it down. It is a pretty typical contemporary novel about two college-aged kids (if you consider 21 a kid still) who meet in a unique way and strike up a very real, modern relationship. I say relationship lightly (and a lot this post apparently) because for the majority of the book, these two characters are strictly in the friend zone. They each had their own dramas going on outside of each other, which was a nice change of pace. Obviously I love the cover art, and the design of the cover in general. Though, I would have liked to see a different resolution for Penny’s anger about that traumatic event, I would recommend this in the future to most people.
What do you guys think? Have you read this? Is it on your TBR? Let’s chat in the comments!
(I am currently trying out a couple different books to see which sticks)
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland