Sunday, 21 August 2016

#CBR8 Book 92: "The Unexpected Everything" by Morgan Matson

Page count: 528 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Alexandra "Andie" Walker is the daugher of a congressman who just had to go on sabattical because of some irregularities in his campaign funds. For the last five years, since her mother died of cancer, Andie and her father have only really interacted in the public eye and her father has been busy with his political career in Washington D.C. Andie had very specific plans for the summer. They involved a pre-med internship at Johns Hopkins, far away from her father. Due to the minor scandal involving her father, she finds herself stuck without any plans for the summer and having to learn to relate to a dad who's suddenly around constantly.

Andie's best friends, Palmer, Bri (Sabrina) and Toby (Tobyhana) are delighted that she'll be able to spend more of the summer with them. Maybe she'll finally meet a guy that she'll give the time of day for more than three weeks, max? It also means she'll be present for Palmer's epic annual scavenger hunt. Andie tries to adjust to her new, completely unplanned existence, and out of desperation gets a job as a dog walker. While walking other people's pets, she meets the enigmatic Clark, who seems to live alone in a huge mansion, without any idea what to do with the dog in his care. Their first date is an absolute disaster (because Andie follows the same script she always uses, and shares absolutely nothing personal about herself), but after his dog gets badly sick and they spend a night monitoring its vital signs (not a good excuse to bring to your worried father the next morning, having not actually let him know where you were in the first place and letting your phone run out of battery), they start to make a connnection.

Andie discovers that Clark is in fact hugely popular best-selling fantasy novelist C.B. McCallister, who is staying at his publisher's house over the summer in the hopes that he'll finally get over his crippling writer's block and finally deliver the manuscript for the third and final volume in the trilogy. Palmer's boyfriend Zach is a huge fan and geeks out most adorably when he gets introduced to Clark. Andie's loyal friends are delighted to realise that Clark has a huge house at his disposal and no parental supervision. Since he was home schooled, Clark's never really had friends his own age and it doesn't take long before the gang is hanging out at his place all the time. As Andie and Clark spend more time together and grow closer, might Andie finally have found a guy she's developing real feelings for? What's going to happen at the end of the summer, when Clark (hopefully) finishes his book and goes home to attend college?

I've never read anything by Morgan Matson before, but her books are all very higly rated on Goodreads and the fact that this had a college age fantasy author as the love interest intrigued me. Andie's a fun protagonist, if a little bit too emotionally guarded. She's very much a victim of her circumstances, becoming emotionally closed-off after the death of her mother and the virtual abandonment she's suffered from her father. Being a politician's daughter, she has learned never to set a foot wrong and to always appear clean-living, hard-working and virtous. She knows how to spin any situation, because her father's political advisors have spun her whole life since as long as she could remember. She has a very clear idea of what she wants for the future, and when suddenly those plans might be disrupted, she has trouble adjusting and dealing in a good way.

Luckily, she has a loyal group of friends to support her, but as the summer progresses, some dramatic personal developments could cause the unbreakable foursome to fracture irrevocably. Having always dated unobjectionable high school guys who've known her for a long time, Andie has never really had to give much of herself and she's certainly never let the relationships last long enough to even begin to matter. Her longest-lasting relationship, if you can call it that, is with a fellow politician's son, who she meets occasionally at parties. They fool around, then go their separate ways. Nothing meaningful is ever exchanged, only kisses.

With Clark, things are different pretty much from the start, and because he was home-schooled, he doesn't always react the way Andie expects or wants him to. She's prepared to completely write him off after their first, catastrophic date, but after being forced to spend the night at his house, working frantically to save his publisher's dog, she can no longer deny that she really likes him and that the thought of actually connecting more deeply with someone might, in fact, terrify her.

The book is a too long and the final third gets bogged down in a bit too many melodramatic storylines. I liked that not all of the difficulties resolved themselves neatly, without any repercussions for everyone involved. The snippets of Clark's books that are sprinkled throughout are also a nice touch. I'm always a sucker for fiction within fiction, and Andie and her dad bonding further over the cliff-hanger ending of Clark's second novel really amused me. This is a fun book, with a cool cast of teenagers and anyone looking for a light and entertaining read would do well to pick it up.

Judging a book by its cover: So many doggies! As Andie spends a lot of her time walking various dogs in this book, the cover is pretty much spot-on. I think the cover model's hair could have been blonder based on Andie's description, but I could be wrong. The big fluffy white dog could easily be Bertie (his full name is Bertie Woofter - how CUTE is that?) and the bright colours make the cover nice and inviting. Considering how bad some YA covers is, this is a pleasant exception.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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