The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Contemporary Two-fer (Reviews of When It Happens and Rules of Attraction)

I've been reading quite a lot of contemporary fiction recently, having overdosed on paranormal and dystopian titles over the last year. I love what I've read so far – although this genre has never been a favourite of mine. Often these books, while good, are quite slight so rather than right full reviews I've decided to write mini-reviews of those that I've particularly enjoyed – these will pop up on the blog now and again.

When It Happens
Susane Colasanti
Speak 2008
Ah, this book was just so sweet. Initially, I found it hard to get into – the opening chapter is entirely dialogue and just doesn't flow very well. However, it's worth persevering because When It Happens quickly settles into a lovely duel narrative between smart girl Sara and intelligent slacker, Tobey. Ironically, not an awful lot actually happens and it's all entirely predictable but that's what I liked about it. This is a simple boy meets girl story and Susane Colasanti never resorts to ridiculous intensity and melodrama rather choosing to write the story of a fairly normal high school relationship. The bumps that Sara and Tobey encounter along the road are believable and they deal with them in a low key and realistic way.

Other than the simple storyline, the main strengths of When It Happens are Sara and Tobey themselves. Sara is super-smart and focussed while also being charmingly spiritual – putting her wishes out into the universe in the hope that the universe will answer her. If this sounds a little hokey, it's really not – it comes across as very sweet and balances out Sara's logical side nicely. Tobey is a musician, which instantly rockets him to the dizzy heights of Splendibird's Favourite Book Boys (TM). He's that lovely combination of intelligence and lack of focus and just seems full to the brim of hope and potential. He's also full to the brim with teenage lust and his sections of the book are often very funny.

As soon as I finished When It Happens, I ordered Take Me There by the same author – if it's anything like this light yet lovely title I will be absolutely delighted.

Rules of Attraction
Simone Elkeles
Simon and Schuster 
I have a review of Perfect Chemistry sitting in my To Be Posted folder. It's been there for months. The reason that I haven't posted it is that I still can't decide if I liked the book or not. Basically, I think the disastrously awful epilogue left a bad taste in my mouth. Still, I'd heard good things about Rules of Attraction and decided to give it a go. Not only did I enjoy it but it has warmed my heart to Perfect Chemistry, reminding me that before THAT epilogue there had been quite a sweet story.

The storyline of Rules of Attraction is actually a lot more cohesive than the first book in the series. Carlos has been sent to live with older brother Alex in Colorado and is not impressed. While Alex couldn't wait to escape gangland Chicago, Carlos would very much like to be up to his neck in it. In his opinion Alex's girlfriend Britany has encouraged Alex to turn his back on his heritage and there is no way that Carlos would let some white girl do the same to him. Until he meets Kiara.

Kiara is very much the heart of this novel. While I felt that Britany was a bit of a stereotype (perfect girl hiding difficult home life – seen it all before), Kiara is totally refreshing. She doesn't dress right and doesn't care, her only friend is the delightfully camp Tuck and she really couldn't give much of damn what people think of her. She stands up for herself and likes a challenge – which is exactly what she's presented with in Carlos. Carlos is also well written, cocky and defensive he's nothing like the more angst-ridden Alex. However, like his brother he's a good guy at heart and his actions betray this at every opportunity. Carlos's and Kiara's growing relationship made more sense to me than that of Alex and Britany but the latter pairing also seem more believable in this second instalment of the Fuentes brothers. I look forward to part three, Chain Reaction, which comes out later this year.


Unknown said…
I totally swoon at your reviews. I love the way you write & think the new direction you are taking with your OU course is certainly the right one for you.
I wish I had your way of expressing your self and the vocabulary is fantastic - thank you for aiding my educaton by reading your reviews.
Splendibird said…
Ah, Emma - you are too kind! I am blushing. In all fairness, the other reason I haven't published the Perfect Chemistry review is that it is really badly written... not at all sure it makes any sense.
Robby said…
When It Happens is great. Susane Colasanti cannot write a bad book. And you cannot write a bad review. I am sure of it.
Nomes said…
ahh, I love the idea of mini reviews :)

Always love reading your thoughts on books. I know I am definitely in the minority when I didn;t like Rules of Attraction (couldn't even finish it, haha).

You should try some Melina Marchetta if you are looking for a GOOD contemp! I really think you'd love her :)
Oh I adore these two reviews! And I agree with so much of what you've said. I think Susane Colasanti is one of my favourite new authors, entirely because her books are sweet and realistic and I think the predictability of her books is what draws me to them. The lack of melodrama, as you said, was SO REFRESHING. I can't help but love the simplicity of her books.

The epilogue was horrific in Perfect Chemistry, but I too like Rules of Attraction a lot more. I believed in Carlos and Kiara whereas I just rolled my eyes at Alex and Brittany (and it's terrible but every time the word 'mamacita' was uttered my skin crawled.)
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