A Really Awesome Mess by Brendan Halpin, Trish CookPublished by EgmontUSA on July 23rd 2013
ARC from 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.
A Really Awesome Mess is a story of two troubled kids: There’s Emmy- sixteen year old Chinese girl adopted by a too normal white family. Emmy struggles not only with her family situation but also because of a certain mishap at school that has led her to a broken heart and purging tendencies. Next, there’s Justin- sixteen year old hormonal boy who was caught by his father in a very unappealing situation with a girl. Justin is hostile towards everybody but only because he is constantly tumbling down the hole of depression.
Emmy and Justin find themselves dumped (as they believe) by their parents at Heartland Academy, a therapy school full of rules and people watching over you too closely. At first, both of them are hesitant at accepting they’re new environment. However, after building alliances with the people from their Anger Management group, maybe Assland- err, Heartland was exactly what they needed to get better.
I enjoyed reading A Really Awesome Mess! I like the two POVs, both Emmy’s and Justin’s. The POVs were well distinguished from each other and it made Emmy and Justin’s characteristics stand out more at the comparison. Emmy was fierce and witty despite her whininess. Justin was friendly and good despite his aversion from people sometimes. I liked how both characters were so clearly messed up and yet you could see their redeeming qualities. I found out that it’s easier to understand and relate to characters when you liked them and that was the case with Emmy and Justin.
Aside from the protagonists, I liked reading about the people around them at Heartland. The counselors really seemed to know what they were doing and they acted pretty cool despite the mayhem of kids they handle. And of course, I liked reading about Emmy and Justin’s Anger Management group.
There’s Jenny, Tracy, Chip, and Diana. As individuals, this group was chaotic and unruly and yes a bit crazy weird but as one, they seemed like pretty good friends. I liked Diana most of all. She was awesome, what with her bad mouth (this kid has cursed more than anyone in the book), witty comebacks, and violent but brave soul. The crap this kid went through was just really sad and yet she seemed so strong. Maybe, she was using anger to deal with it but at least she was dealing with it.
The conclusion was a little disappointing and the romance quite wasn’t enough for me. Still, reading this one was a nice experience. It made me remember reading Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story. I think it’s great that these authors tried to weave in some humor in the very depressing state of the characters. Life is messy but life can be pretty great if you try to look at the brighter side of things. Then, at least it would be a really awesome mess.