Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
Source: Received from publisher for review via NetGalley
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. (Summary from Goodreads.com)
The best part of this novel, in my opinion, is the group dynamic between Emmy, Justin, "Mohammed," Diana, Jenny, and Chip. There is humor, affection, and various screwed-upedness. I loved the transition from not knowing/liking each other to becoming partners in crime, looking out for each other, and challenging each other to face their aforementioned screwed up-edness. Together they are an interesting bunch. Individually, however, I can't say I particularly adore any of the characters. My favorite story belongs to Diana (but I won't give anything away). My least favorite is probably Jenny's, though her illness is very interesting and not something one will find in a lot of books.
Emmy, one of the narrators, really bothered me, though. For various reasons. For one, she refuses to accept her painfully obvious eating disorder. Please refer to this hilariously awesome review that just so happens to perfectly describe how annoying Emmy could be at times. Another thing is the way body image defines her life and the lives of those around her. I know that she has an eating disorder, so body image is a prominent thought in her mind. That does not stop me from being infuriated. At one point she says something along the lines of, "That girl is overweight so she must hate herself." Get the fucking fuck out.
Probably the most major flaw in this novel, though, is the lack of depth. Seeing as the setting is a mental illness rehabilitation center, this book features a vast range of mental illnesses. I did not feel like any of them were touched on as deeply as they could have been, which really hindered the emotional connection. All the feels were right there, a breath away from surface, but they never made it for me. Why do authors refuse to give me the feels? I love to see the characters suffer!
Would I recommend this book? Yeah, I would. It's entertaining, quick, and provides a bit more substance while still being a generally light read. It's not super original, but it does have aspects I've never read about before, which makes it a trillion times cooler and more memorable. Though this wasn't the reading experience I was hoping for, it is one I am happy I had.
Oh, and there's a really comical situation with a pig. Quite a few pig-related comical situations actually.
My true rating falls somewhere between 3.5 and 4 crowns, but it leans more toward 4.