Initially, I was going to do a two-fer, Dragon Bound and Storm's Heart... but yeah, instead I read Sean Griswold's Head and The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June. I guess I should be happy I'm at least reading!! Anyway, a two-fer is not realistic for today, so instead, I'm going with Flat-Out Love, especially since some of you have expressed some curiosity concerning the book :)
Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
published by Kindle in 2011
Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it.Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction
When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side ... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.
And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.
To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that... well... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.
The Story: Hmmm, the blurb is very detailed and also, accurate, so I'm going to skip this part as I'm not going to add much :)
My Opinion: Flat-Out Love has been on my radar ever since Ms Heather Webber gave it a 5 stars on Goodreads. Unfortunately, it wasn't only available on Kindle. Then, a few months later, I checked it out again and lo and behold, it was now available in epub format! Hurrah! So I was really excited when I started reading the book.
I really liked the feel of the book. In Flat-Out Love, we follow Julie as she navigates through her first year of college and the Watkins dynamics. I really liked that the book spans several months. It gave the readers the opportunity to really get to know Julie as well as understand the dynamics of the Watkins and this was very important. Too often nowadays, plots and romance are rushed because of the timeline of a few days. So this was a definitive plus for Flat-Out Love. I also loved reading about Julie's college life - social such as making new friends, starting new relationships, as well as academic - choosing classes, attending them, midterms, etc. Ms Park definitively did a great job at creating the right feel for the book.
Unfortunately, while I enjoyed reading about Julie's life, I didn't like the character itself as much as I wanted to ^_^; In truth, Julie is really a nice young woman. She's pretty mature, she's smart and enjoys college and the opportunity of learning, she cares about others and wants to help out... Like I said, a pretty nice young woman. What bothered me with her though is that I thought she cared too much about what other people thought and appearances. Not to the extent of high school where she's trying to fit in and be part of the cool crowd, but to the extent I felt she was a conformist. For example, the first impression she gets of Matt is that he's a geek based on his t-shirt... and that impression stayed with her very long. Simply because he'd rather stay home and play video games, hang out on forums, etc. instead of going out and hanging out with people. She took pity on Celeste because she wasn't acting like a regular teenager. Even herself, back in her hometown, she had to hide the fact that she liked school, enjoyed literature. Why? Is it wrong to be different? To enjoy different things? To be your own person? I don't think that Julie thought it was wrong per se, but some of her actions made it seems so. The other issue I had with Julie's character is I thought she was a bit meddlesome. I know she wanted to help and her intentions were sincere, but the fact is she didn't know what was going on and without that crucial information, what she did could have been harmful. Sometimes, helping consists of giving a hand and that's easy. However, as soon as you dwell into something more profound, you have to be careful. I think the part where Matt scolds Julie after Celeste's sleeping-party was correct. You cannot just swoop in and fix what you think is wrong with one fingers snap while there's someone who's been on the sideline the whole time, observing and helping at a slower pace. It was presumptuous on Julie's part and I'm glad Matt called her on it. Oh, I'm not saying that Julie didn't help Celeste out, because she did. I think that without Julie, Celeste would not have healed as fast and as I said, Julie's intentions were sincere... but yeah, I found Julie presumptuous and it bothered me a little. Otherwise though, I had no problem with Julie and I think Ms Park did a good job at making her realistic.
I really liked Matt. He could be considered as a beta hero. He's silent and a bit geeky, but he's there for you and has your back. He was also a very, very good brother and I liked that. I really felt for him at the end when he tells Julie the truth. It must have been such a weight on his shoulders and it says a lot that he could hold it together. I understand why Julie was hurt by Matt's actions and he admitted he knew it was wrong... However, given the circumstances, it was hard to be mad at him and begrudge him those moments where he could be himself.
I also really liked Celeste. She was an interesting character and crucial to the book. I liked her maturity and her mannerism :) I figured out quite early in Flat-Out Love what was the reason that Celeste was carrying a life-sized cardboard cutout of Finn... and I have to say I'm surprised Julie didn't.
There was a touch of romance in Flat-Out Love. Not the focus of the book, but one that was still quite satisfying and I think it's because of the timeline in the book. Since they knew each other, it was just more believable :)
My Grade: B. I wasn't sure when I started Flat-Out Love what kind of book it was. For some reasons, I thought it'd be a funny book ^_^; What I got was a solid, well-written book with well-developed and flawed characters and a story with a lot more depth than I expected. Based on the storyline, I'm not sure I would go back and re-read, but I would definitively read more by this author :)