Summary (From Goodreads.com)
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.
Author: Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin
Length: 288 pages
Publication date: 23rd July 2013
POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT: I don’t think this counts as a spoiler because it’s stated clearly on the Amazon website and hinted at strongly from the very start of the book. In case you’re worried though, skip this first paragraph just to be sure! So with that out of the way I can say – that blurb had me expecting something totally different to what I got! I expected Emmy’s big issue to be the scandalous photo, but that actually felt like a very minor part of the plot. The real reason she’s sent to Heartland? An eating disorder. That’s not necessarily a negative, but it is a topic I’d have liked to know about upfront, and I’m actually a little surprised it wasn’t mentioned more clearly. I don’t think it NEEDS to be or anything, but given the potentially triggering nature it just feels…I don’t know, courteous or something to be upfront, in the same way most blurbs are about drugs or self-harm.
Anyways, strange blurb expectations aside, what did I think about A Really Awesome Mess? Honestly, I’m not quite sure!
Emmy and Justin are interesting characters, though it took me a while to warm up to them. Their relationship felt forced, and somewhat unhealthy, as Justin has no interest in helping Emmy to recover, happily helping her eat less than she’s supposed to. The secondary characters such as Diana, Jenny and Mohammed were all unique and intriguing, though their progression through Heartland felt more like cheating the system at times.
The plot with the hidden pig (pretty much as strange as it sounds) is adorable, but also unnecessary and somewhat weird. The serious issues make the book feel like it’s supposed to be a meaningful contemporary, but the plot with the pig is more like a comedy. Unfortunately it feels like the book tries to achieve both without really succeeding on either front.
The staff are beyond incompetent which personally drove me crazy. If the whole book had felt like a comedy, their incompetence may have added to that, but the serious aspects meant it was just infuriating and unbelievable.
A Really Awesome Mess was a fast-paced, easy read, ideal if you’re looking for something light-hearted, unique and a little farfetched. With upfront comments about sex, some some seriously opinionated characters, and unexpected plot tangents, A Really Awesome Mess is a humorous tale of teamwork. If you’re looking for something a little deeper, as I was, it’s probably not what you’re looking for.
Buy it? This is definitely a library book for me.
In a nutshell: A unique, light-hearted and fast-paced read, but not the gut-wrenching remarkable read it’s billed as.