January 20, 2014

Review: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin

Title: A Really Awesome Mess
Author: Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 288
My Rating: 4 stars

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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.  - Goodreads

A Really Awesome Mess is written from the point of view's of Justin and Emmy, two newbies at Heartland Academy, a boarding-school type place where other people their age can go to get mental help. They don't go by choice, and as the story begins, neither of them has come to terms with the real reason that they have to be there. Justin struggles with depression, leaving him numb, and Emmy has an eating disorder that stems from constantly worrying about how people see her. It's a beautiful journey they make, dealing with their problems, and discovering that letting others into their lives might not be such a bad thing, and will keep them from having to to through this hard part of their lives alone.

At the beginning of this book, I kind of thought that everything was a bit too dramatic, portrayed in a way that seemed a bit too goofy, and I don't necessarily know if I just got used to it, but I ended up really getting into it. There's definitely TONS of humor involved, which I thought was a unique take on a topic that would otherwise be entirely serious. I adored every bit of it, and found it to be an appealing way to talk about deeper issues in a usually-lighthearted manner.

It was refreshing to read from the point of view of two teenagers that actually seemed like real people, which is sometimes hard to come by. They didn't sugar coat anything, but were honest in how they felt. Sometimes you just need to feel like you aren't alone in whatever battle you're fighting, and I think this book has the power to do just that for a lot of readers. I definitely found myself thinking, YES, that is exactly how I feel sometimes. 
"And this brittle feeling was really closely related to the anger. Because when you're in constant pain, people who aren't in pain were really annoying. And people asking you to do stuff you didn't want to do were even more annoying. Like, really, why the hell would you ask me to take out the garbage when it took every freaking ounce of energy just to feign normalcy while I was sitting here?" [Justin]
The people they befriended also had distinctive ways of being- from their personalities, to speech and humor, that they honestly reminded me how different a group of friends in real life can be. I can't being to explain how extraordinary it was to see them all find people with whom they could just be themselves. To find themselves, to discover what being a happy teenager is really like, if even for just a single second. It seriously made me smile like crazy, and feel happy myself, just by reading all about their shenanigans. 

When everyone in the little group started talking about why they were really at Heartland Academy, it was played off as not a big deal, but I kept thinking that it WAS pretty important. I guess there's different ways of thinking about it; they were just trying to brush it off that way like people so often do about things they're not comfortable talking about, and they weren't letting it define who they were. That got me to thinking that a lot of the stuff in this book is like that, in my opinion. How much you enjoy this book depends on how you much you can connect with and understand the characters' motivation, so you might end up really liking this book... or really not liking it. 

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