by Rebecca Sparrow
Reviewed by Maggie: September 19, 2012
Published April 8, 2008 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Goodreads • Buy at Amazon • Kindle • Fishpond
It's always harder for me to talk about books I love, but basically, I was so utterly charmed by this book that I haven't been able to finish a book since. Yes, people, it's that serious.
Nick McGowan was the perfect all-around guy, good looking, popular, and the top of his class. Then something happened over the summer and he dropped his classes and started acting out. Rumors are swirling about what happened, but no one knows the cause. He's a boarder at his school and after his last stunt pulling the fire alarms, he's on the verge of getting kicked out. In steps Rachel Hill's family.
Rachel Hill is a driven overachiever. She has set hours for study, work, and school. She works as a clown at a children's party place, and she even takes her clowning seriously. She has a clown archrival. She lives with her adorable parents who, to her chagrin, can't help but offer to take in Nick McGowan.
I loved all the characters. Nick reminded me of Heath Ledger's character in 10 Things I Hate About You.
I loved how high school this book felt. Rachel is just so busy with all her work and can't believe her parents would risk derailing her academic career by asking her to the dishes. The nerve. Rachel is anal retentive and a perfectionist but she doesn't fall into the unlikable category because she is so endearingly dorky. I mean, she has Kirk Cameron and Huey Lewis posters on her wall! The way Nick and Rachel's friendship developed felt natural as well. It's the inside jokes and little moments that come from sharing a space and constantly bumping into one other whether you want to or not.
When I first got this book, I set it aside after finding out it was set in 1989. Another 80s YA? But it totally works here. The story itself doesn't feel dated at all and the 80s references (acid washed jeans! cassettes!) are amusing rather than annoying. It's funny that I worried pre-read about whether this book would be a ripoff of Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys. This book is so much better that there's really no comparison.
Just read this book. It's actually available in the States! Rebecca Sparrow writes with such charm and humor that she may temporarily ruin all other books for you, but you'll be cracking up before you know it. You may also find yourself singing, You're just too good to be true...
Rating: 5/5 stars.