Thursday, December 29, 2011

ten reasons i loved ten things we did (and probably shouldn't have)

ten things we did (and probably shouldn't have), by Sarah Mlynowski

Five Sentence Summary:
2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have. April's living parent-free with her friend - no, housemate (sounds classier that way) Vi. Of course, such opportunity isn't without consequences: secrets, boy drama, and buying a hot tub (!). But don't let the drama bring you down: April's adventures will keep you laughing all the way home. Sarah Mlynowski's coming-of-age story of a young girl living on her own for the first time is full of hilarity and heart.

Post originally written in October 2011
Style of post is written to emulate the formatting and style of the original book.


ten reasons i loved ten things we did (and probably shouldn’t have)

reason one:
the anticipation of a great contemporary novel

It’s been a while since I last read a great contemporary YA novel. The last five books I read were paranormal (not my favorite genre), educational memoirs, and novels-written-like-memoirs (technically speaking not a genre, but I say pooh on technicalities). So when I picked up ten things we did, I was looking forward to a fun, light-hearted adventure. Enough dystopian! Enough facts! Time for relaxation, escapism, and hopefully some laughter.

reason two:
a smart main character, thankyouverymuch

April, is bright enough to know when something funky’s going on, but also clueless in the way that teenagers naturally are. So she makes discoveries in real-time, and you just sit there and applaud her for actually figuring something out, unlike so many characters in other fiction books (I’d insert a *coughTWILIGHTcough* but I actually haven’t read Twilight (nor do I have any desire to do so), so that would just be making assumptions, which I don’t care to do right yet). I don’t want to wring her neck for her cluelessness. She also happens to be funny and have a conscience. There’s one scene of absolutely delightful drunken babble, which is hilarious and made me giggle out loud. Not quite LOL—GOL? Maybe. Something like that.

reason three:
the girls

So April’s got two best friends: Vi, the uber chic housemate (not roommate, she’s too cool for that) and Marissa, the classic best friend. Vi’s totally the older sister you want to have: she’s whip-smart, fashionable, loves to have fun but also has a heart of gold. Yes, I’m aware that this description makes her sound like a stripper from Sweet Charity, but the difference is that Vi’s in high school with aspirations to do great things. She’s not perfect, but her flaws are endearing. As for Marissa… I’ll admit, I don’t think she gets enough screen time. April mentions about how much she loves Marissa and wants more of her, and I concur! I’m not sure why April and Marissa are best friends – we’re definitely told they’re besties more than we see them be besties – but she’s still a sweet, endearing character with a dramatic moment (or two) to provide.

reason four:
the boys

So we’ve got Noah (the boyfriend), and Hudson (the… other boy). They’re both swoony, plenty charming, and are excellent candidates for the necessary love triangle. I can imagine them pretty clearly: Hudson’s got that too cool for school vibe, and Noah just reminds me of my high school boyfriend – in a good way.

reason five:
it’s funny. but not in a dumb way.

I laughed a lot. But not in a way that made me wince. I hate schadenfreude stories, and there wasn’t any schadenfreude. Just funny characters dealing with their crazy lives. No wincing on my end required.

reason six:
a great style of writing

My hat’s off to Sarah Mlynowski (even if I can’t spell it without looking it up). She’s written a character in a way that’s smart and sassy, without being ridiculous or over-the-top. It’s also just plain fun to read. She includes a lot of emails and text messages, which I adore. (I love me a good epistolary (sheesh, I couldn’t spell that one either!) novel – apparently, I just like things I can’t spell.) They keep the book moving at a fast pace and add some background context that we wouldn’t get from a first-person perspective.

reason seven:
flashbacks done right

Technically speaking, the whole story is a flashback. It’s written following a method perfected by some of the greatest television shows in the universe (Alias/JJ Abrams, I’m talkin’ to you). It starts off mid-action, then goes back in time to show you how we got to the present, then continues on with the future. Ineffective flashbacks can distracting, but in ten things we did they’re timed perfectly to give you the information you need at the moment you need it. It’s perfectly clear when it’s a flashback versus when it’s present time. They’re brief, but they give you just what you need to keep reading. It help keeps the pace up.

reason eight:
no bad guy

I feel like everything I read these days has a “big bad.” But not ten things we did. Even the “bad guys” had good intentions, even if they didn’t always follow through as I’d want them to. I kept expecting people to end up evil and do things out of pure maliciousness. But nope. Just good characters that sometimes did bad things. 

reason nine:
a surprisingly self-aware main character

Reason two and reason nine are kind of the same thing, but it’s important. So there. Anyway, you know how they say there are only seven plots in the world? Boy meets girl, war and peace, and five other stories. (Or, if you’re my college Shakespeare teacher, there’s only two stories: love stories, and baseball stories.) Well, in contemporary young adult stories, you see a lot of the same plots recycled over and over again. And it’s beyond frustrating to see characters doing the same things over and over again, without even realizing it. But see here, April’s not just another dumb blonde. (Actually, I don’t remember if she’s blonde or not. For some reason I’m imagining a brunette bob.) Just when things get ridiculous and you want to scream PAY ATTENTION FOR GOODNESS SAKE, she does just that. And she acknowledges the circumstances. But not in a preachy way, because April don’t fly like dat.

reason ten:
i couldn’t put it down

Maybe this reason’s a copout, but it’s the plain factual truth. I finished this book in two days, when I should have been getting work done for my various part-time jobs. Was it worth it? Maybe yes, maybe no. Because if I hadn’t finished it so fast, then I could still be reading it! (Alas, the perils of a fast reader.) But I gotta say, this book’s got a winning combination of comedy and good heart. If you’re a fan of contemporary YA, then ten reasons we did is definitely worth a read.

Was it a success?
Definitely! These were definitely some interesting characters (they seemed pretty multidimensional for contemporary YA fiction), and the things they did were certainly interesting! And I think it was done in an interesting way. I think that some might find the style of the writing and voice of the character less than intelligent, but I think it has some good smarts to it, so YES: done in an interesting way.

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