Author: Sara Dessen
Genre: Coming of age
Reading Level: Young Adult
ALA Teens' Top Ten (2007), Iowa High School Book Award (2009), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2011)
Summary: Annabel Greene is starting the new school year with no friends, now that she's been ostracized by her former BFF, Sophie, for something that happened at the end of the last school year (what could it be?!). She spends her lunchtime eating alone, alongside the equally alone and music-obsessed Owen Armstrong. Gradually the two become friends, and he might just be the catalyst Annabel needs to finally come clean about what ended her friendship with Sophie.
Red Flags: Language (mostly PG-13), some teenage drinking, a scene of attempted rape
Far and away, this is my favorite book so far this year. I've never read Sara Dessen's books before, and while I can imagine these kinds of plots could get a bit old after reading too many of them, as a first timer I gobbled it up. This was perfect for my little teen angst loving heart, but it was also well written so it wasn't a "I liked it but..." situation. I just liked it.
I liked the characters, I liked that they were all pretty normal and believable. I liked Annabel's family dynamic and that her parents acted like parents. I liked that the characters were relatable, even though I don't actually have any experiences in common with them. I liked SO MUCH that Annabel's relationship with Owen developed naturally and gradually, instead of going from 0-60 in fifty pages. There were no big make outs or awkward conversations about sex, but, without being spoilery, what there was was more satisfying than anything of that nature in the other books I've read so far this year.
I had two quibbles with this book. 1) I wish the language had been taken down a notch or two. That's the one thing that would keep me from recommending it to actual teenagers (or, you know, anyone who doesn't like swearing in books). 2) Owen's music talk was a little annoying to me. I mean, he's a teenager and teenagers tend to talk in superlatives, but I still rolled my eyes at him. Maybe I'd feel differently if I were enlightened.