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“Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.” Source
For me this is one of the most difficult reviews I’ve had to write as I have quite conflicted feelings about the book… but more on that later.
In the first chapter of this dual-POV book we are introduced to Emmy, who as a baby was adopted from China into an American family. Emmy has grown up alongside her parent’s biological daughter Joss and has always felt like the odd one out. Emmy winds up at Heartland after issues with both bullying and anorexia. The other POV we follow comes from Justin, who has just as many troubles of his own, including a battle with depression. At Heartland Emmy and Justin are forced to form a Breakfast Club-esque misfit group alongside other teens they would have never been friends with in the ‘real world’. The group have to learn to put aside their differences and work together to achieve their personal goals, and this idea becomes the backbone of the story.
Although intriguing and different from those in other YA novels, the characters weren’t always likable and at times were difficult to root for. Having said that I was pleased to find that each member of the group did have quite a distinct personality, something that I have found lacking in some of the other books I have read recently.
From what I have seen this book has received extreme mixed reviews from readers, with many feeling offended by the way in which serious issues such as anorexia and depression are depicted and dealt with. Although I didn’t necessarily set out to take this book too seriously, I did myself find some issues with the way some of the teens’ problems were portrayed, particularly in the flippant comments exchanged by the characters, and can completely understand why some readers have been annoyed by this aspect.
Despite having some issues with A Really Awesome Mess I did find the writing styles very easy to follow and would definitely consider reading more from these authors in future, perhaps with a different subject matter.
At the end of the day I can’t deny that part of me did enjoy the book, if there hadn’t been something appealing about it then I wouldn’t have finished it over just two days. On the other hand I really did feel it was flawed, at times inappropriate and although I thought the idea had a lot of potential, it didn’t quite hit the mark.
This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here.