25 January 2012

Ten Things We Did by Sarah Mlynowski

2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn't-have-done at a time.

 What I Expected:  A sappy tale with gritty undertones and vivid descriptions of "what it's like being a teen girl" all overlaid with gut-wrenching humor.  And capped with a even sappier ending.

What I Got:  Just about what I expected, except I didn't think I'd really love it.  Not the same way I love Sarah Dessen books.  I didn't exactly fall in love with this book, but I don't regret spending a weekend reading it, either.  The whole thing was well done, except the main character, April, just about made me want to sit in a bathtub and drop the toaster in.  I liked the story, though, even if pretty much the whole thing was far-fetched.  Like, little green men saying "take me to your leader, earthling" would have been more believable, type of thing.

A little splash of irony?  I actually really liked it.  God help me if I know why.

April was dumb.  Ridiculously so.  Maybe this is just country-born-and-raised talking, but who the fudge doesn't know how to change a bulb?  Wash the dishes?  I mean come. on.  And I know the whole book is about making mistakes, but jeepers creepers!  Some of the things she did just made me go, "And you weren't expecting that to happen?!"

Ready for the irony?  Even though a house plant had a higher IQ than April, she was pretty cool.  She was hypocritical, overly intense, sometimes mean, hysterical, incredibly selfish and dumb, but I never once threw the book across the room.  Somehow, I really really liked her character.  I liked her story.  I liked seeing how she changed and how she grew.

Writing-wise, it was alright.  I did have an issue with how some authors use multiple question marks (???) and exclamation points (!!!!!) in order to show emotion.  But other than my little pet peeve getting a work out, the writing fit the story.  Sometimes it was short (it was usually really short, nothing elegant) and sometimes it got profound.  I liked how Mlynowski divided everything up.  It's a very unique style and I loved it.  She really took out the overrated subtly on how to weave in backstory.

I didn't see a lot of humor, though.  I would laugh in embarrassment for the characters, but it wasn't as uproariously funny as the blurbs claimed.

Story-wise, it was great.  I think the story and the theme were the book's greatest strengths, even if the plot itself wasn't very "tight".  You've got a girl who doesn't know much and you throw her out into the "big bad world" and see what happens.  Typical things happen (except the hot tub.  I don't think that happens a lot): you get suspicious of your boyfriend, a crazy next-door neighbor blackmails you in order to get into your little group, and you have sex for the first time.  And your world falls apart, in the end.  And thennn, it pieces itself back together.

Overall, I really liked the whole book.  Enough to where I want to read more of the author's other works.

If you're a fan of Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti, you may not find as much enjoyment in this book, but if you're a fan of Kieran Scott and Elizabeth Scott, you should make time for this one. :)

Book Info:

  • pages - hardcover, 368
  • published - June 2011
  • publisher - HarperTeen
  • genre - contemporary fiction
  • rating - 4/5
  • received via - library :)