A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook, Brendan Halpin
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Release Date: July 23rd 2013
Synopsis: A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.
Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.
Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.
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.
A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.
A Really Awesome Mess is a book that will really make you think and reflect–and make you severely addicted and laugh out loud. I seldom find stories like A Really Awesome Mess, stories that touch upon serious, sometimes dark subjects, but still manage to be lighthearted, fun, witty, and highly entertaining. Because of the fact that me coming across these kind of stories are rare, I consider A Really Awesome Mess to be a real treasure.
What A Really Awesome Mess tells is the story of a group of teenagers living in a rehabilitative school, Heartland Academy (dubbed Assland by our group of characters), and trying to get through their problems, problems some of the characters are in denial of having, and maybe do some crazy shenanigans while they are at it, told through the perspectives of Emmy, a girl who is suffering from an eating disorder and other problems, and Justin, a boy who has clinical depression.
Being a novel that is driven by its characters, the characters that the story contains are the most significant part of A Really Awesome Mess. And I think that Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin do a fantastic job at writing these characters and their problems. Emmy and Justin are instantly engaging narrators, both with their own unique personality and problems that are extremely relevant to teenagers.
Emmy, the first narrator to be introduced, immediately got my attention with her realistic characterization and narration. Her character is filled with anger and resentment, resentment and anger because of the fact that she is the different one in her family, being adopted from China, and resentment and anger because of the racial slurs constantly being aimed at her, because of the bullying she went through at school and the bullying she later dealt out herself as revenge, and the negative view she has of her own body.
Even though Emmy is a hilarious narrator, I could really feel the problems and emotions deep down inside her, painfully so. Her character has a lot of room for growth in the beginning room that she does later grow into. I loved Emmy and her story of growing and healing.
Justin is an equally engaging character as Emmy, and even more so in particular moments. I admit that he doesn’t come off as a very sensitive person in the beginning. To be frank, he is actually a bit of asshole, as he does have a lot of moments where sexist, racist, and insensitive, mocking things spill out of his mouth. He’s an angry person. Angry at his father, himself, and sometimes his whole family. And then there are times when he just feels empty for long periods of time and really pained after that. A good deal of his problems came into being because of his struggling with clinical depression, which I thought was executed realistically and honestly.
I have no experience with depression and neither have any of my family members, but I believe I know enough about it to really think that Cook and Halpin handled Justin’s depression brilliantly. They show the sadness, pain, struggling, and hopelessness that comes with it and they also show the happiness and gradual healing, though depression never does go away, really. At the end I really think that Justin had grown a lot as a person and will be able to live through life strongly, even with depression.
The side characters that Cook and Halpin created are colorful and deserving of great praise. Never did I think of these characters as flat and lifeless. Mohammed, Diana, Jenny, and Chip were characters that leave impact with their personalities and backstories. Add to the fact that they all have a great chemistry with each other and the two leads and you got a terrific gang of awesome characters.
And even with these characters that can be great fun and the heartwarming story of healing that comes along with them, the authors still thought to add some More to A Really Awesome Mess. And that More is total utter chaos and weirdness. Really, you have runaway pigs, replacing the word heart with the word ass (My Achy Breaky Ass, Assland Academy, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Ass, I’m not making this up.), and some veerryyy interesting conversations. Calling A Really Awesome Mess a really awesome mess wouldn’t be to far off the mark.
This isn’t a gritty, edgy read, but if you are looking for a fun, heartwarming one that can go on some very weird tangents, I wouldn’t be able to come up with a better recommendation than this. Cook and Halpin made a real good story that is a must read with their efforts. And really, this is one of the most unique “issue” books out there.
I received this an advanced copy in exchange for a honest review via Netgalley