Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Published by EgmontUSA; July 23, 2013
eBook, 233 pages
Received from publisher through NetGalley -- thanks!

A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin's summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents' divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog-- and Emmy definitely doesn't. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.

A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.

-Description from

Dear A Really Awesome Mess,

Usually when I read a book, I like to have a pretty good idea what my fellow reviewers have thought about it. This time around, I didn't have a clue! So I was a bit hesitant when I first started. Would I like you?  And the answer to that question was a pretty yes. It just goes to show how good it can be going into a book without bringing along all those set expectations.

The first thing I noticed about you was the writing. It was HILARIOUS and gee, did I have a blast while reading! I loved how Emmy and Justin's voices were easily distinguishable yet were still very similar in regards with the humour. I think the dual point-of-views were used very effectively and the story came together smoothly.

If there's one thing in a book that strikes my fancy, it's unlikely friendships. And that was my favourite thing about you. I loved how the friendships between Emmy, Justin, Tracy, Chip and Jenny grew so organically. They really were a 'ragtag group of teens' and while at first I wasn't too into it, by the end of the book, I wanted to see more of that friendship.

But while I loved the friendship between the teens, I wasn't so crazy about the individual characters. I found them all rather underdeveloped and that might be because of the sheer number of characters there were in this book. As a result, there were many details that were omitted that might have been crucial to the development of each character. For starters, I would have liked more background on Justin's relationship with his mother. He constantly talks about not being wanted and we see clearly where that stems from with his father but what about with his mother? Does she contribute to his feeling of neglect in any way? If so, how?

Furthermore, the reasons why Chip, Diana, Jenny, and Tracy were at Heartland didn't feel as if they were resolved by the time they got out of there. I have a feeling that that was a hint at how flawed Heartland's system was but nevertheless, it didn't leave a good taste in my mouth knowing that they would most likely revert to their old practices.

And now for the romance. The whole Emmy/Justin thing was way too 'love at first sight' and sadly, that was something I have long grown out of. It was obvious right from the start they were going to fall in love and when they did, it came out flat. *Spoiler alert! Highlight to view!* But the fling I did like was the Jenny/Chip one. It was so cute and I loved all the little signs Cook and Halpin gave us at the beginning. I would love to see how that would play out!

But frankly, in the grand scheme of things, these were all minor issues. The major issue I had with the book was this: none of the very serious, very common problems the teens were at Heartland for were given much attention. And that is upsetting. I was really expecting the authors to explore these problems and I was left disappointed.

While I did want more from you, I thought that in the end, you made for a fun and light read. So that wasn't really what I was looking for after I had read the blurb but at least you weren't a boring and very heavy read! There were great laugh-out-loud moments and the experience of reading you was definitely enjoyable from all the witty cracks Justin and the rest of the gang!


  1. A lot of people seem to have the same problems with this book. Writing-wise, I might enjoy this (who doesn't love laugh-out-loud moments?), but character-wise... not so much, especially since this sounds very much like a character driven book. I probably won't give this a go, since it doesn't sound like my kind of book, but I'm glad you enjoyed it overall. :)

  2. The writing was hilarious and I think without it, I probably wouldn't have liked it at all. The characters weren't so great and I'm a person who considers characters to make or break a book. But at the same time, I also look for good, enjoyable, easy narration in a book and this had that!