A Really Awesome Mess — Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Egmont, Out July 23, 2013

cover31775-mediumEmmy and Justin are both sent to Heartland Academy, a reform school. Justin’s parents’ divorce struck him hard, but he really hit rock bottom when he overdosed on Tylenol. His parents finally send him for help after his dad walks in on him and a girl. Emmy was adopted from China and has never felt like she belonged in her tall, blonde family. However, when a scandalously picture leaks around the school, she gets back at the boy who started via Facebook. After being expelled from her private school, her parents send her to Heartland. As Justin and Emmy meet and become friends with their anger management support group, they realize that they are not alone and start a hilarious, sad, amazing journey to self discovery and acceptance.

Review: This has been one of my favorite books that I’ve read all summer. It’s funny and engaging with enough serious discussion to create a standout novel. The chapters alternate view points from Emmy and Justin, which I’ve discovered I really enjoy in a book. I like the break between the characters. I like that I got to fully understand both Justin and Emmy. I was heavily invested in both characters immediately. Cook and Halpin manage to create a seamless book that gives insight into human nature without throughly depressing the reader.

The serious themes throughout the novel were belied by the characters own quirks and thought processes, which served to lighten the mood. With that being said, Emmy’s struggle with disordered eating and Justin’s thoughts about sex were never trivialized with humor, but always felt real. In addition to Justin and Emmy’s characters, the supporting characters where done extremely well. Diane was a firecracker and was one of my favorite characters. The issues faced by the other characters  (child abuse and compulsive lying) all felt real as well.

My only issue with this book was that the ending tied up a little too well. With all of the issues discussed in the book I had a hard team believing that everyone’s problems besides Emmy’s and Justin’s got resolved at the same time. The explanation behind how everything got resolved was realistic, the time line was just off for me. Even with the ending being too perfect, I think A Really Awesome Mess was a great read and can see people eating this up.

**I read an advanced readers copy of this book. Thank you to Egmont for providing me with a copy.**

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