Title: The Book of Luke
Author: Jenny O’Connell
Summary: Emily Abbott has always been considered the Girl Most Likely to Be Nice — but lately being nice hasn’t done her any good. Her parents have decided to move the family from Chicago back to their hometown of Boston in the middle of Emily’s senior year. Only Emily’s first real boyfriend, Sean, is in Chicago, and so is her shot at class valedictorian and early admission to the Ivy League. What’s a nice girl to do?
Then Sean dumps Emily on moving day and her father announces he’s staying behind in Chicago “to tie up loose ends,” and Emily decides that what a nice girl needs to do is to stop being nice.
She reconnects with her best friends in Boston, Josie and Lucy, only to discover that they too have been on the receiving end of some glaring Guy Don’ts. So when the girls have to come up with something to put in the senior class time capsule, they know exactly what to do. They’ll create a not-so-nice reference guide for future generations of guys — an instruction book that teaches them the right way to treat girls.
But when her friends draft Emily to test out their tips on Luke Preston — the hottest, most popular guy in school, who just broke up with Josie by email — Emily soon finds that Luke is the trickiest of test subjects … and that even a nice girl like Emily has a few things to learn about love.
Review: I actually enjoyed this book a lot than I thought I would. I was expecting some weird cross between Mean Girls and John Tucker Must Die, and while there was definitely a little of that, there was a great sense of humor throughout the narrative and well developed, likeable characters. There were a few problems I had with it, and they nagged at me a little during the book, but overall, I really enjoyed myself and it was a fun, light read that is engaging and entertaining–a perfect summer read that will only take you a few days.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- I really liked the premise of this book. Like I said, it was like a combination of Mean Girls (nasty book pointing out flaws in people you don’t like) and John Tucker Must Die (‘new girl’ catches eye of hottest guy in school in order to bring him down, but ends up falling for him)–both movies I thoroughly enjoyed. Emily was an engaging character and I really enjoyed her narrative–I got to know her and she seemed to execute ‘teenage girl’ perfectly. Her reaction to moving in the middle of her senior year, away from her friends and boyfriend; being dumped by that boyfriend the day she moves and after she even made him breakfast; her frustration at her father for staying behind in Chicago and essentially ditching the family when the only reason they moved at all was because of him. She just made sense to me, and she never tried to hard to be a “cool” character, like mentioning all the “hipster” bands she listens to, how all the wonderful, classic novels she’s read because she’s “the smart girl”. She was cliché, but she was real. I feel like that’s a hard balance to master in young adult novels, and O’Connell did a really great job with her cast here.
- The pacing here was really great. The plot wasn’t introduced within the first twenty pages, but rather took time, taking baby steps until you were fully immersed. And you also got the sense that several months had passed during Luke and Emily’s relationship, rather than just saying it was several months, but felt more like a couple weeks. Plus, I just loved their relationship. I don’t think Luke ever needed to be ‘fixed’ in the first place, but I just applied one of Emily’s flirtatious quotes–“Maybe you just never danced with the right person.” Luke was pretty great from Date #1, and I found myself very involved in the story and how things would turn out for everybody in the end. I was invested, and that’s one of the most important things for me when reading.
- The ever-touchy subject of sex. This book mentioned it plenty, and yes, even Luke and Emily had their moment. While I still don’t think sex needs to be in young adult books in any form, there are people who think it needs to be in order to be realistic. I feel like O’Connell handled this perfectly–there was just one paragraph that only implied what happened, and gave exactly no details regarding the ‘incident’. It happened, but it wasn’t violating or uncomfortable for me. It didn’t scream in your face, ‘THIS IS SEX’ and I really appreciated.
What I Didn’t Like:
- I felt like the plot resolution happened much too fast. I was counting down the pages, and it only took about fifteen to straighten everything out and give everyone a happily ever after. I didn’t like that everything fell apart and was fixed so quickly, and trust me, I would have kept reading another thirty pages if that’s what it took for there to be a proper resolution. I was definitely enthralled enough, and it’s upsetting that it was over so quickly, when it seemed there was so much more that needed to happen.
- There wasn’t enough background on the old Emily. There were a lot of references to the ‘nice Emily’, but not any proof that she actually existed. I’m very much a ‘nice girl’. I’m known that way to all my friends, and I don’t like making people uncomfortable or starting arguments or being rude. I highly doubt I could wake up one day and just…change my entire attitude and behavior and just start being mean and nasty to people. No matter how fed up I was with being a nice girl. I just couldn’t find myself able to believe Emily was the sort of girl who never said a mean word about anyone, because she is rude and acts like a jerk that doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her from page one. I couldn’t grasp the before and after change of who she was because it didn’t exist. I wish we were given a little more, and like I’ve said, I’d be willing to read that extra fifty pages that it might have taken to give that introduction. Also, I didn’t like that she kept complaining, in the beginning, about leaving her friends behind. It was like she had to start over in a new school with a bunch of people she didn’t know. She went back with people already knowing who she was and two best friends who were more than happy to have her back.
Overall: This was a really fun, well written, summer read. I loved every second of it and would just sit and read for long periods of time without getting tired of the characters or the story. I’d definitely recommend this to anybody who likes contemporary young adult fiction–or even John Tucker Must Die or Mean Girls! It was light and appropriate, and will be finding a place on my favorite realistic fiction books. I look forward to reading anything else O’Connell has to offer! This book was definitely a home run!