One thing that's had me a bit busy is reading/reviewing he first three books of the Playlist Fiction collection. Here's the first one: It's Complicated, by Laura Smith, the first of a series, is set to release on April 1st.
There’s a reason Facebook has the relationship status, “It’s Complicated.” Follow four college roommates, Claire, Palmer, Hannah and Kat as they maneuver crushes, confusion, and the crisis when pushy boys go too far. Complicated as it is, these four friends will pull through, guided by the strength of their friendship and the power of God’s love.
Now, I admit this kind of YA fiction is not the kind of story I have the most experience reading. As I know from the number of you who read my posts, we'd like to be more familiar with fire-breathing dragons, magic islands, and dark adventures than the unpredictable throes of Real Life or dramaful relationships.
But like it or not, Smith's novel still has a lot to teach every girl, and may be more relatable in some ways than we'd wish.
Claire is a dancer from a single-parent family. Her stressed-out mom has finally found a man she may stay with, and he's even flying them out on a fabulous vacation to Paris! Does this mean good news for Claire, or is it too good to be true?
Hannah is a cheerful, outgoing friend who hides deep frustration at her difficulty relating to the opposite sex. Will she ever fins a guy she can connect with, or is she forever doomed to watching her friends' relationships like a kid through a candy-store window?
Palmer is a beautiful, bright, popular homecoming queen with an amazing boyfriend. But when he starts pressuring her to go too far, is that destined to change?
Kat is a soft-spoken athlete with a Southern accent. How will her relationships and friendships fit into her friends' lives?
With the myriad of plots running through the book, each of It's Complicated's individual story lines is relatively simple. For much of the book, the stories follow each character in a simple narration, showing the reader pleasant and not-so-pleasant snippets of the characters' lives. However, when things get Complicated, they complicate fast, and the plot held my attention easily throughout most of the book.
Smith's novel follows the controversial four-character narration method, with each chapter rotating through each character's point of view. Complicated was the first novel I've read with more than three characters narrating in this stye. This kind of switching point of view has pros(getting to skip around to the interesting parts in characters lives, keeping suspense) and cons(confusion). If the characters are even somewhat similar and there are many of them, as is the case here, it can be hard at first to keep each story straight.
However, Smith does an excellent job at avoiding tangling her story lines. Each character develops an individual enough voice to separate them from each other, and Smith drops clues into the chapters(other characters, references to previous scenes), that savvy readers will be able to navigate.
I connected most with Palmer, Claire, and Hannah in a familiar sort of way. They instantly felt like old friends I'd known for a while, and it wasn't difficult at all to root for them. Each fills the typical YA archetypes and cast of characters(athelete, dancer, popular girl) but had twists and turns that kept them from being cliche.
I would also like to note that at times I had trouble keeping track of the secondary characters that accompany each girl.
Each story follows several settings, but I really appreciated how the story opened on a familiar and instantly relatable setting for high school seniors/juniors--a college orientation. I wasn't sure about the story at first, but the opening instantly grabbed someone as college-obsessed as me. I love hearing about dorm rooms, dining halls, majors, etc. ( I read college blogs for fun) so it was great.
This story isn't your typical YA fluff. It explores several serious and urgent themes in today's culture, mainly sexual and relational pressure. From several events that have happened in my personal life, I know that good Christian girls deal with this pressure as often as anybody else. Now more than ever, I'm glad stories like It's Complicated exist. The story has not been resolved, so the fates of the characters are still unclear. But I pray that Smith takes advantage of the attention of girls across the country to resolve the story in a way that will most help girls struggling in their own lives.
When I got the the end of the story, I kept looking for more pages! I couldn't believe it was over and cannot wait for the resolution to these girls stories. With certain elements like brand-name-dropping and transcripts of text messages, It's Complicated starts off like many other YA novels, but it delves into serious territory in a completely natural and non-preachy way.
I know many girls who could benefit from It's Complicated and hope you will give it a try!
It's Complicated, by Laura Smith, releases April 1st, 2013.