Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Unexpected Everything

The Unexpected Everything
Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster, 2016 519 pgs
Grades 9-Up

Andie's perfectly orchestrated life gets turned upside down when her politician father is accused of wrong-doings and steps down from his post while an investigation ensues. As part of the fallout Andie loses her planned prestigious summer program, meant to start her on the road to premed in college and future fame and fortune. Andie's closely guarded and controlled life has been blown-up and she has no back-up plan. After spending some quality time at the diner with her four best friends an advertisement for a summer job catch's her eye. At the interview she discovers that the job is dog walking, something in which she has no experience. After the interview and some on the job training, Andie is hired. Her first regular customer is a giant dog named Bertie, who lives with a mysterious cute guy. Mysterious cute guy turns out to be Clark, nerdy and awkward and not Andie's usual type. Maybe this is why Andie is attracted to him and agrees to a date, which requires more in depth conversation than Andie is comfortable with. After a disastrous encounter with a box of chocolates Bertie is in mortal danger. With no one else to turn to Clark asks Andie to help him with the ailing dog, where barriers break down and Andie and Clark make a real connection. Meanwhile, Andie's friends are having drama of their own, leading to a complete shake-down of life as she knows it. Getting comfortable with dogs, re-establishing a relationship with her suddenly available father, coping with the loss of her deceased mother, finding an identity not defined by her friends, and falling in love are the challenges Andie is forced to encounter even though she didn't purposely chose any of them. Can Andie let go of being in control of her emotions and future or is it time to open her heart and see where life takes her?

Morgan Matson offers another quintessential teen summer book featuring some of the minor characters from her popular Since You've Been Gone (2014) perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen. This is one of those books that I find it hard to relate to any of the characters (seemingly beautiful, popular, and privileged teens with way too much freedom and money), yet highly enjoy for the escapism that it offers and teen girls will as well. It is a lot of fun and serves as a perfectly frothy and satisfying beach read. This is primarily Andie's story and her romance with Clark is the focal point of the novel, yet Andie's friends have their share of plot inducing drama. Clark is a bit more relatable than the girls and readers will appreciate his nerd side, yet he harbors a very cool career related secret that also pushes him into the realm of teen royalty. Not too many adults are present with the exception of Andie's father, who exhibits much character growth throughout the story and becomes a real rock star by book's end. The Unexpected Everything runs a bit long for this type of book, but the plot moves along quickly and contains so many threads that readers won't want it to end. The cover is inviting and will draw readers in who may be put off by the length. Besides offering a fun summer romance, Matson also leaves readers with something to chew on while they are reading such as putting family before career, the reality behinds politics, being flexible with life goals, taking chances, and learning to trust. Part of the book is presented in text messages between the friends, including a lot of emojis, which will certainly appeal to teen readers. This book came out in May. Twenty-nine libraries in my county purchased it. It is currently available in only five. These statistics say it all: this is a book that teens are interested in reading and will commit to once they start.

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