Saturday, September 22, 2012

So Over You (e-book) by Gwen Hayes

So Over You is a self-published YA novel with a contemporary setting. If it had been written for adults, I might be tempted to call it chick lit, because, although it has romance in it, I don't think it quite qualifies as a romance novel.

According to All Romance Ebooks, it's 40,000 words long, which came out to 109 pages on my Nook, not counting the excerpt from Amanda Brice's Codename: Dancer at the end.

Synopsis:

Layney Logan, co-chief editor of her high school newspaper, the Follower, views Jimmy Foster, the newspaper's other co-chief editor, as her arch nemesis. Everything he does seems calculated to annoy her. It doesn't help that the two of them have history together - they used to date each other and broke up back in the 8th grade. If Layney had a choice, she'd be around just about anyone but Jimmy, but she'll put up with him for the sake of the paper.

Unfortunately, the paper's not doing too well. Due to school district budget cuts, the Follower technically doesn't exist anymore. Layney and Jimmy plan to put it out online, but they'll need to make money somehow if they want be able to afford the software they'd like to use. The journalistic staff of the Follower comes up with what everyone but Layney thinks is a great idea: a calendar featuring the 12 hottest guys from the school's various clubs and sports teams. Layney argues that the calendar would objectify the boys, so Jimmy shoots back that, in order to de-objectify them, someone on staff should go out on dates with each of them and then write about them as people, in a feature designed to explore what girls are looking for in teenage boys. Jimmy nominates Layney as the girl for the job.

Layney eventually agrees because the idea makes her uncomfortable - after all, a good journalist sometimes needs to venture outside her comfort zone. Most of the rest of the book deals with each of the twelve dates - some of the guys are nice, some of them are creeps, and some of them fall somewhere in between. Layney starts to really think about her relationship with Jimmy, where things went wrong, and the horrible event in her past that may be the real reason she broke up with him.

Review:

This was an unusual purchase for me, because, while I read YA, I so far have purchased very little YA fiction in e-book form. Also, I don't often read YA contemporary fiction - too much of a chance that serious/angsty real-life issues will come up (which basically is what happened in this one). After I finished Second Son of a Duke, one of Hayes' stories written for adults, I wanted to try more of her works, and the description of So Over You appealed to me.

I enjoyed the book most when it was light and funny, which was most of the time. Layney's “voice” was fun, even though she came across as being slightly older than she was. To me, she seemed like she was in her 20s, rather than not yet out of high school, and she treated the school paper like it was The New York Times. That kind of thing tended to throw me through a loop – I couldn't help but laugh when I learned that Layney and Jimmy broke up over something that happened during a game of spin-the-bottle, because it seemed so juvenile. I'll have to see how I like some of Hayes' other books, but I have a feeling her books written for adults will probably sit better with me.

Layney's panic attack clued me in on the upcoming shift in the book, so it wasn't like it came completely out of the blue. It's tough to know what to say, without going so far as to actually spoil things, but there was an awful event in Layney's past that she suppressed. The dates she went on, and her interactions with Jimmy, forced her to think about what happened and the effect it had, and was still having, on her life and emotions.

While the revelation certainly stuck in my mind and maybe helped keep this book from being pleasant, but otherwise forgettable, part of me wished that the revelation hadn't happened. The book could just as easily have been a completely light and funny look at two people who used to date and who discover that they really do still have feelings for each other. The romance between Layney and Jimmy had some cute moments - I squeed a bit when Layney failed to realize why Jimmy was reacting the way he was to the outcomes of her dates, and I loved Jimmy's story about falling head over heels in love with Layney when they were 7. I would have loved to see more of that kind of thing.

Considering how short the book was, twelve dates turned out to be a bit much. The earlier dates felt like they had a bit more depth than the later ones. For example, I would have liked to see more of the guy from the karaoke date. He seemed like he could have turned into another one of Layney's friends, like Tyler, and yet he was barely in the book. And, speaking of Tyler, I found it a little odd that he was Layney's only friend. True, she was kind of married to her “job” of working on the school newspaper, but she was so energetic and personable that it was hard to believe she hadn't made one friend prior to going out on those dates for the newspaper. Tyler was a pretty good sport, letting Layney talk him into helping her with “girlie things,” like putting on makeup, but I couldn't help but think that Layney needed to find herself an actual female friend.

This was an okay book, although I would have preferred it if this book had been 100% light, humorous fluff. The more serious shift near the end didn't seem to fit well with the overall tone of the book.

Other Comments:

There were a handful of typos, but, as far as I can remember, nothing major. Also, there was one part that looked a bit odd on my Nook, a bulleted list. The bullets were almost completely cut off on my screen, although I was able to read the list itself just fine.

Read-alikes: 
  • At Face Value (book) by Emily Franklin - Those who'd like another YA book featuring a bit of romance and starring teens who work on their school's newspaper might want to try this. It's based on Cyrano de Bergerac, only with the genders flipped and a happy ending. I've written about this book
  • Sushi for Beginners (book) by Marian Keyes - If you liked the chick lit feel of So Over You (career-minded female main character, humor, and a bit of romance), you might want to give this a try. Just keep in mind that it's written for adults.
  • Double Clutch (book) by Liz Reinhardt - I haven't read this one, but it sounds like it might appeal to those who'd like to read another YA contemporary and who enjoyed reading about Layney finding herself interested in both Micah (the super-hot skater who was one of her first dates) and Jimmy.

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