Author: Natalie Whipple
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Russ is tired of coming in second to his best friend, Garret. Whether it's in sports, in school, or with girls, he can never get ahead. Something has to change, and when a new girl comes to town he sees his chance. He has to win her over before Garret does, but proving he's not second best won't be easy when Garret is a pro.
Russ will do anything to beat Garret, including using his little sister to get closer to the new girl. He has to be careful, though, because if anyone at school finds out he attends anime night (and he might even enjoy it), it would ruin his reputation, just like his secret love for cooking and James Taylor.
But pretending to be something he isn't will catch up to him eventually, and Russ can only get away with living two lives for so long. As more than one friend reveals they aren't who they seem, Russ must figure out what and who he really wants in his life. And more than that, he needs to find the courage to make it happen.
Oh man, I loved this one. It was cute, it was fun, it was himarious, it was so real. I think this is one of those books that everyone can find something to relate to.
Russell is tired of being second-best to his best friend, Garrett. So when a new girl comes in to town, he thinks this is his chance. His in comes when he finds out she's also obsessed with anime, although no one can know that he actually watches the stuff with his sister and her friends.
I think Russell might come off as too shallow to some people; he only seems to care what other people think, he only thinks of his reputation. But that isn't true. I found Russell to be a very complex character. He wants to make everyone else happy, even at the expense of himself. He's become a chameleon, to fit in with every group. But he also knows that this is high school, and it's brutal, and knows how lucky he is to be part of the popular crowd, and doesn't want to do anything to upset that balance. He just has to get through school, and then he can go off and be himself. But he's spent so long faking it that he's no longer sure who himself actually is.
I think we can all relate to that feeling of having to hide who we are, of carefully picking and choosing what we show other people. Especially in high school, as it can be a brutal place. Russell is trying to figure out who he is (especially with college looming), what he wants from life, and we all know that feeling.
Yes, the main plot is romantic relationships. But it's also about friendships, which I think is super important, and love books about that. When everything Russell seems to do just pushes his friends away further, he has to really figure out himself, and what he's going to do about it, because he can't rely on them anymore. And I loved that. I also loved how diverse this group of characters was, mainly personality wise, and seeing how they all grow and change. This is the coming-of-age novel I wish I had when I was still in high school, honestly.
This was such a fun book. It was serious, and I think it had great themes, but it was also fun. Yes, this book has romance, but I think it centers more about friendships and personal growth. I loved seeing Russell and his friends grow and change and become themselves. It was an all-around great book (although it will make you hungry be warned).
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Natalie Whipple grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU, with a minor in editing. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook.
She is the author of the TRANSPARENT series, HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW, the I'M A NINJA series, FISH OUT OF WATER, and MY LITTLE BRONY (under K.M. Hayes). In addition to that, she is on the writing team for the cRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera that should be out sometime in 2015.