Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read a brief article from Amazon in the Kindle author’s newsletter about how this Kindle best seller was a breakout hit and put it on my to-read list for that reason alone. I didn’t realize its intended demographic is teens, especially teen girls. I definitely do not fit that description, so when I began listening to the audiobook in my car and realized this, I rolled my eyes to myself and figured I would have to suffer through some, like, you know, gum-popping teeny-bopper chick lit. How wrong I was. In the end, raging hormones and quality writing will not be denied.
Julie, the lead character, is a college freshman from Ohio who alights in Boston without a place to stay and ends up living in the home of her mother’s old college roommate, with three kids of her own: a gorgeous, hunky, charming, brilliant son; another brilliant, but not-so-hunky or charming son; and a rather weird thirteen-year-old daughter. Anyone familiar with Jane Austen’s works will figure out early on where these characters will land at the end and what life lessons are quietly slipped in along the way, but I must admit I didn’t see the exact route until the end.
I’m supposed to be a tough guy ex-FBI agent who reviews mysteries and crime thrillers, which I do, but this one pulled all my emotional strings. The author somehow manages to make Julie and friends seem both realistically immature while still intelligent and likeable. None of the characters is a stereotype. The dialogue manages to sound like real teen-speak without anyone coming off as total airheads or adults faking it, at least to my geriatric ears. The bittersweet combination of angst and joie de vivre of the young comes through with the exact right touch. The ending is too simplistic to be completely credible, but by that time you’re chomping at the bit for the characters to just get there already and won’t care. All you tough guy readers out there, make this one a guilty pleasure and keep the tissues handy for when no one’s looking.
This book was made even more enjoyable by the reader, Julie Whelan, who did an outstanding job. She is an excellent actress.