FLAT OUT LOVE by Jessica Park

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I’ve been eyeing this book for a while now and finally decided to read it. I actually finished the book before 2017 ended but just posting my review now.

I actually spoiled myself when I was halfway reading. I scanned the last half of the book and then boom. LOL. Even with the spoiler though, I actually enjoyed the book. It adds freshness to the typical romance. It touches on pain, acceptance, growth, family, and of course love.

Flat Out Love is about Julie Seagle, a newbie Boston resident who was saved by her mother’s best friend’s family from living out in the streets after being scammed in Craiglist for the supposed to be ‘apartment’ that she will be living in throughout college and about her experience living with the Watkins. The busy and absent parents, the mysterious and away oldest brother Finn, the geek and kinda over protective Matt, the closed off Celeste, and of course Flat Finn which is a cardboard cutout of Finn, the older brother.

The story got me hooked from the start and I know that there’ll be more to the story than what’s already been laid down, especially regarding the elusive and mysterious FINN.

More so than the romantic aspect of the story, I was moved by it’s touch on pain, trauma, and family. Coz my guess was right. There was more to Finn. When “Finn” supposedly told Julie in their email what’s up with Flat Finn, I had a feeling that it was not all and that there was a deeper reason behind. And when I spoiled myself, I realized I was right. haha. The story touches on how losing one’s family member and witnessing the scene itself can cause problems which even when covered by ‘normalcy’ cannot be unseen.

Everyone deals with grief differently.

In the story, Finn died in a car accident which is primarily caused by the icy road but the mother couldn’t help but blame herself as the reason instead. I can only imagine what losing one’s child feels, especially if you’re blaming yourself for the loss. It might have been difficult and a long way to recovery, especially if you are already depressed to begin with. I can kinda somehow relate to this because I lost my father when I was 19. Although, in my case, I think I’m kinda apathetic and such a bad child. I cried, of course, but it was like I readily accepted it. I did not go through much grief like the Watkins family. Maybe because, my father and I are not really close. He has been working in the city when I was a child and I only see him on weekends. Maybe because, he has been battling Diabetes and his kidney failure for months before he passed. Maybe because, I was just really trying to suppress the pain and chose to feel numb instead. I don’t really know but for whatever reason, I did not go through much depression and grief. Life went on.

Let’s talk about Flat Finn which is one of the most important characters of the story. The cut out cardboard of Finn symbolizes a lot of things. It shows that the Watkins are not ready yet to accept the reality that Finn already passed. It symbolizes that the mother doesn’t want to accept her guilt or maybe she wants to be reminded of it instead. It symbolizes the pain of being number 2 which is the case for Matt who has always been second best, next to his brother. Slowly Flat Finn changed. He had “joints”attached to him. This change symbolizes that something is changing for the Watkins family. The wall that they have put tall is now cracked, even if it’s a little. Maybe, it just needs an outside force, a persistent one, to take down the walls that we have build for ourselves. Maybe, we are just waiting for somebody to intrude into our lives, so unexpectedly, and hope that he or she will be able to save us from misery. In the end, Celeste was able to tuck away Flat Finn to the attic. Basically, concluding the story that the pain and reality was now accepted and although, the Watkins is still in the process of healing, at least there’s hope, there’s change.

I also fell in love with Julie and Matt’s love story. It’s not really a new concept where somebody is pretending to be somebody else when chatting and the other person will fell in love with that person only to find out that the person is not the person she thought she was chatting with. Julie is a very straight forward person and Matt is her opposite. They met in an unexpected way, fell in love in an even more unexpected way, then reality stopped the momentum. Matt was pretending to be Finn. Julie started chatting Finn when she doesn’t know yet a thing about what really happened, and she fell in love. She fell in love with the Finn that she was chatting with. Only to find out that it was Matt in the end. It is definitely hard to accept that the person you fell in love with isn’t the person you think he is. But I guess, in the end, genuine gestures will make you get past the pretending act. And in the end, YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH THE CHARACTER and NOT JUST THE FACE.

Flat Out Love is a gem. I can’t say that it’s the best but it’s definitely one for keeps.

 

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

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Hi! I’m back! 🙂

Without Merit is the latest book by Colleen Hoover which was just recently released. I was excited and had been waiting for this book ever since I got to binge read Colleen Hoover’s books a couple of months back since I really liked most of what I have read. However, maybe the excitement and build up was too much as I did not enjoy the book as much as I thought I would.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is still good. I prolly just expected more. Plus it’s short. Without Merit is kinda like a deviation from the usual build up that is seen in Colleen Hoover’s previous books. Everything was laid out in the first few chapters of the story. Each character introduced.

Without Merit is about the crazy, weird Voss family who lives in a refurbished church which they call Dollar Voss. The story centers on Merit Voss who collects trophies she did not earn to relieve stress, and to keep up with all the secret of her family that she is keeping. And when her failed attempt to end it all, to leave everything WITHOUT MERIT, leaving a note with all the secrets, she now have to face the consequences of her action and try to keep the one boy that she loves.

The Voss family is one of the craziest, weirdest family I have read so far in my entire YA reading career. From the head of the house, his ex-wife, current wife, to the eldest child, twins (Honor and Merit), and the youngest, coupled with the current wife’s younger brother, and the unrelated boy who’s love interest of Merit, they all are weird and are full of secrets. The fact that they live in a refurbished church with the image of Jesus still in tact is weird enough. But knowing that the father, ex-wife, wife, and all the kids are living together makes it even weirder.

Without Merit is a short read, jam-packed with crazy characters, each with a lot of baggage to deal with. Like her other novels, Without Merit makes you ponder and think about the greater issue that is incorporated in the novel. The underlying themes this time is depression.

The characters are each given just enough time to know what’s their secret and the reason behind. The father’s reason for buying the church and living with his ex- and current wife. Utah, the oldest brother’s reason why he kissed Merit when they were younger which had been the start of the discord in their relationship. Honor, Merit’s identical twin sister, and why she only kinda goes for guys who are almost at the end of their lives. Luke, the current wife’s younger brother, and why he suddenly turn up into their doorsteps and why he had sex with Utah. Sagan, the love interest of Merit, and why he always drops everything when somebody calls him.

Maybe I expected for Merit’s story to be more fleshed out. Maybe I expected to understand why she was depressed, although she fails to recognize it. I know that being the talk of the town for having a crazy family can be overwhelming and having to bottle up a lot of things, especially heavy secrets, since young, can take a toll on one’s mental health. However, I could not relate to Merit and her struggle with all the secrets she keep. It’s like I want to scream at her “Why not just open up? Why not talk to someone?” But maybe this is where the problem with depression, from an outside perspective, the solution might be so easy but for someone experiencing it, easy things might be a luxury. It’s like I want to know more, understand more, but the book is already ending.

On the other side, the book shows how each one of us is struggling in one way or the other. We can never really judge the actions of another person unless we know the full story behind it. Even the most ridiculous action might have a sensible reason behind. So don’t judge things and don’t hold prejudice before knowing everything. And maybe, just maybe, open communication is just what we need to overcome our baggage. When all the Voss’ secrets were laid out in the open, it started the healing process. Readers will be able to make sense of the actions of the characters and Merit’s relationship with her unconventional family also got better. The reason? They were able to talk.

Still, Without Merit shows Colleen Hoover’s prowess in delivering a story that will tug at your heartstrings. The underlying theme might be heavier than her previous ones but it was told in a manner that’s enough for me to stop and think about but not really pierce deeper unlike the others. Nevertheless, it’s still a book to be recommended.

The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin

The Big F is the debut novel of Maggie Ann Martin. And for a debut novel, I honestly enjoyed it.

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We all want the perfect life. We all want a reality that seemed to be conjured from our imagination. We all want to please everyone around us. We make plans and we try so, so, so, very hard to stay on path and achieve THE PLAN. But then life happens and it will throw us off balance. This is basically the premise of The Big F. Thus, each one of us will be able to relate to this book. Throw in some romance and isn’t that just perfect? ^^

Story. Danielle is set to go to Ohio State University. That’s where she was groomed to be but an F in her AP English class turned her life upside down. Ohio State retracted her admission and her planned life suddenly is now lost. Then comes in the snap decision to enroll in the Denton Community College (DCC) and try to pass her English class there so she can be in Ohio State by spring. But then here comes Luke, her old neighbor and childhood ultimate crush. Then there’s also Porter! Oh, how complicated life can be?

Characters. I could relate to Danielle so much. Like to the Nth level. On second thought not that high, but high enough. There’s so much expectation from Danielle’s character. Her parent’s expectation. Her expectation on herself. Expectation from her relatives, from people around her. there’s this “perfect”appearance, the “perfect”image that she must continue to show, and this is what’s suffocating. What I love about Danielle is her bright personality and her attitude of not giving up, of just pushing forward, even if at first she is at lost how to face the problem that she failed to get into Ohio. I love her character, however, I have a big question mark in my head about her. She was presented as someone who strives hard to have straight As. But reading thru the novel, I could not really grasp that idea. She was described as having a C in one of her subjects. She doesn’t give off aura that she’s the studious type. So if I were not informed onset that this big F is really, really, a big thing for her, I might not have gotten her. Maybe what I’m missing on the novel is more of a background story of her high school days. A little bit of a throwback here and there might have done the trick.

I love her close relationship with her younger brother. They annoy each other but always have each other’s backs. Reading their interactions is one of the things I enjoy most from this book.

Her relationship with mother is also a beautiful thing. For me, it captures the beauty of having a mother. Her mother’s high expectations of her reflect every mother’s expectation on her children. Failure to achieve this  expectation often results to argument and distance. But I love how they were able to get through the big F. In the end, every mother just wants their kids to be happy and enjoy life.

The snarky remark and feud between Danielle and her cousin also hits the spot. Every family and relatives’ past time when having a gathering always seems to be gossiping who’s doing better and who’s having the upper hand. Sucks.

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And now comes the love triangle. Luke, the first love, and Porter, the One. I’m really a sucker for romance, and maybe for the forbidden ones. Haha. First love never dies but it is seldom that the first one will also be your last love. So I was right in betting on Porter. I love, love, love Porter!!!! I love his character. It’s in between cool and hot with just the right amount of mystery and queerness.

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I can definitely relate to this book, to Danielle. Like since I was a kid, I was expected to do well in school, graduate with Latin honors in college, have a nice job, be promoted, be rich, etc. But it suffocated me and it still is. I was able to fulfill up to the Latin honors but right now all I feel is that I’m dumb and not really ready for the real world (even though I’ve been in the workforce for almost 4 years already. This made me appreciate the book more.

The Big F reminds us that it’s okay not to perfect, that life does not end with one big mishap, even if it seems like it’s the end of the world already. You just need to have the right attitude. You need to accept your failure. You need to accept that you’ve failed. You need to accept reality. It’s hard, I know, who says it’s easy? But this is the starting point. And who knows? Maybe the road that will open up will lead you to where you truly belong? WE ARE MORE THAN OUR FAILURES.

The book also reminds us that the truth sets us free. When her failure came out in the open, it was chaos at first but through that chaos, she was able to survive. This also applies to her relationship with Luke. Girls, it is never advisable to enter a relationship when you’re drunk, okay?  Never! Even if the guy is your ultimate childhood crush! Getting out of a relationship is pretty trick, especially, if both families are already involved. But in the end, it’s the two person in the relationship that must make a choice. And if you’re not happy anymore and your heart is leaning to another, why stay?

Danielle found her passion in the end along with being honest with herself and with the people involve who she really loves. And so can we.

The Big F is a light read but can make you feel various emotions and can connect with you with so many levels. It’s about acceptance, moving forward, family, love. It is not perfect but it still can mean so much more.