Flat-out Love – Jessica Park

Here’s something different, in theory it could be classed as YA, but it felt more grown up than that. Julie is leaving her midwestern small town for college life in Boston- but she’s totally ready. Armed with confidence and keen to learn she dives right in- but a problem with her accommodation is resolved by her unexpectedly boarding with an old friend of her Mother’s, Erin Watkins and her family. Erin and Roger are both academics, and distant from their children. Matt is a few years older than Julie, studying hard and taking care of his his thirteen year old sister. Celeste is unusual, she doesn’t fit in with her school friends and has an unhealthy dependence on a flat cardboard cutout of her other elder brother Finn who’s away travelling. Julie, who is studying psychology, quickly becomes an invaluable part of the family and makes a project out of socially integrating Celeste to prevent her getting thrown out of school, but it’s hard when the family won’t tell her more about Celeste’s history. When Julie starts communicating with Finn online she doesn’t get any answers- but she does fall in love.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– Regular readers will know strong female leads are appreciated here, and we have a good one in this tale. Julie is tough, bold, resilient and positive, surprisingly strong for an eighteen year old. Perhaps this is why the book felt older than a YA. The only time she acts like a teenager is on a visit to her mother- but then it’s easy to regress on a visit back home. She doesn’t have your typical college experience, she makes a few friends, dates a nice guy for a little while and socialises somewhat, but most of her time is taken with studying and working on helping Celeste.

Kooks for your Kindle?– The Watkins family are a mess, the aforementioned distant parents not helping matters. Put it this way, they are all stunned one night when Julie cooks them a meal and they don’t have to order take-out. All of them are highly intelligent and academic, but this does not explain the underlying tensions between them and Celeste’s mental state. Matt is the only one whose behaviour resembles normal, but he’s under a lot of pressure from his parents and studies. Seth is the guy that Julie meets in a coffee shop and dates for a while, but Julie’s focus is elsewhere.

Painting a Picture for your Paperback?– Seeing Boston through Julie’s eyes is great, a small town girl keen to learn goes to one of the great college towns in the States. But the Watkins’ home life has the strongest portrayal here.

Nookie for your Nook?– Julie does steam up Facebook at one point.

Evaluation of your eBook?– This was not at all what I had expected, and I loved it. The underlying mystery kept me gripped, and while I guessed at part of it, that didn’t ruin it. The heroine may be very young but she’s so grown up and smart that the story works for older audiences too, the subject matter helps this too. The dialogue is witty and Julie’s personality is quite sharp. Celeste’s issues were extremely well done and fascinating from a psychological perspective. Apparently there is a companion piece to this, but don’t click here or look into it before you’ve read this one first, or you’ll spoil the ending!

Frothy Ranking: 4/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: In May I picked it up on special for 99p, but it’s currently £3.49, click here for the latest price from Amazon.

US: Amazon for $3.99, can’t be found on Kobobooks at present.

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