The Unexpected Everything

Before the scandal, Andie had important plans. And zero of them involved walking an insane amount of dogs, being in the same house as her dad or hanging out with Clark. Now there’s a whole summer stretching out in front of Andie without a plan. And Andie always sticks to the plan.

But here’s the thing – if everything’s always mapped out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

The Unexpected Everything (2)

The Unexpected Everything was my first Morgan Matson. It’s a cute, romantic, heartfelt and emotional read that had me thinking Matson has been praying at the altar of Sarah Dessen for at least as long as I have.

Five years before the start of the book, Andie lost her mother to ovarian cancer. After that her father, a politician, withdrew from her and disappeared into his work. As you can imagine, these events left Andie with some pretty serious abandonment issues. They also made her into a total control freak. She plans every aspect of her life according to how it will appear on her CV. She has learned to be carefully expressionless during her father’s speeches. She’s never had a relationship than lasted longer than three weeks.

So, when her father gets embroiled in political scandal and Andie ends up losing her summer internship, she doesn’t handle it well. But those events, it turns out, are only the beginning. Once there’s a crack in her carefully constructed control, it’s not long until the whole thing comes crashing down around her.

Watching it come crashing down is the fun part.

The way Matson handled Andie’s insecurities really made the book for me. It felt very authentic to watch Andie build meaningful relationships while contemplating the loss of them. Andie lives in terror of the people that she loves leaving her, and this leads her to make some very bad decisions

When we first meet her, we see that with most people she only lives on the surface, refusing to answer meaningful questions and never asking any herself. Even with those she’s closest to she can be distant, and is immensely conflict averse. She would rather manipulate friends into lying to each other than deal with the possibility that they might fall out, and as a result, leave her.

She sometimes drives people away because she’s afraid of how they make her feel.

While I didn’t necessarily agree with her actions and actually found myself groaning ‘Andie NOOOOOOO’ out loud on at least one occasion, everything Andie did made sense to me from within her worldview.

I think characters like Andie challenge us to be compassionate readers. It’s really hard to engage with the insecurities of other people, because 99% of the time, they make absolutely no sense to us. What Matson does is challenge us to become Andie for a little while. To ask ourselves: if we had grown up like Andie did and had the experiences she has had, would we have made different choices?

Probably not.

While I enjoyed getting into Andie’s psyche, everyone else in the book, I found myself wanting more from. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Andie’s friends. I totally did. Andie has a very solid girl group who became her surrogate family after the collapse of her own. Their interactions were sweet and funny… but that was it. They all had summer jobs that seemed to relate in some way to their future plans but we never really got to see that side of them. Mostly they just talked about boys. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this – talking about boys is fun – but I just wished there could have been a couple scenes where they talked about anything else.

Clark, Andie’s boyfriend is the typical cute nerd who just happened to start publishing books when he was fourteen. Again, I enjoyed him enough, but he didn’t especially interest me. I am not, for example, fantasising him into existence now the book is over. When I wasn’t reading, I didn’t really think about him at all. As with Andie’s friends, I feel he could have been more complex. The resolution to his problems happened on the fringes of the story. We only knew about them if Andie happened the mention them. This all meant I wasn’t as invested in his character as I would have liked to be. Even the one great revelation of his past trauma didn’t really land. Mostly because Andie didn’t really respond to it and then they never spoke of it again. Weird, no?

Probably my favourite relationship in the book was Andie and her dad. After getting suspended from his job, he and Andie have the opportunity to get to know each other again. Initially, they have an awkward time trying to establish their roles. Alex doesn’t exactly know how to be a father, and suddenly adopting the role of disciplinarian after five years of anything-but does not go down well. Andie, on the other hand, has to adapt to actually being someone’s child again. They also have to start talking about Andie’s mother, and the grief they kept them distant from each other for years. Whether you’re close or not, so much of the parent-child dynamic is about renegotiating your relationship as you grow up. Watching Andie and her dad go through this gave me the serious feels.

If you’re looking for a light summer read that’ll sneak up on you with a surprise kick to the emotional butt, The Unexpected Everything is for you.

A Summer TBR

As the long rainy days of the English summer stretch on and around me my country is overrun by alarmingly hateful people and attitudes, I find myself in need of a distraction.

Luckily, I have books. Specifically, lists of books. To be read. Future distractions. Depending on what happens on Thursday, anyway.

(RemaIN, guys. UK people, I am literally begging you).

Anyway.

Let’s do this.

(summaries from Goodreads).

My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

my best friends exorcism

This is one of those from the title alone selections…

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act . . . different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson

the unexpected everything

I have read endless good reviews for this one, and it sounds Sarah Dessen-esque. I am so in.

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?

A Corner of White (The Colours of Madeleine #1) – Jaclyn Moriarty

a corner of white

I must have read Becoming Bindy Mackenzie at least five times. I adore it. Yet for some reason, I haven’t read any other Jaclyn Moriarty books. This summer, that changes.

The first in a rousing, funny, genre-busting trilogy from bestseller Jaclyn Moriarty!

This is a tale of missing persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life, under mysterious circumstances, and settled in a rainy corner of Cambridge (in our world).

Elliot, on the other hand, is in search of his father, who disappeared on the night his uncle was found dead. The talk in the town of Bonfire (in the Kingdom of Cello) is that Elliot’s dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. And he is determined to find both his dad and the truth.

As Madeleine and Elliot move closer to unraveling their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across worlds — through an accidental gap that hasn’t appeared in centuries. But even greater mysteries are unfolding on both sides of the gap: dangerous weather phenomena called “color storms;” a strange fascination with Isaac Newton; the myth of the “Butterfly Child,” whose appearance could end the droughts of Cello; and some unexpected kisses…

Unhooked – Lisa Maxwell

unhooked

This one had me at roguish young pirate….

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.

But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

The Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

the lies we tell ourselves

I read this list of books that should be added to YA required reading lists a while back. I plan to read my way through the whole thing. This is the first one on the list.

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

What are some of the books you’re most excited to read this summer?

Summer REreads

Sometimes I start to feel overwhelmed by the amount I consume. Music, podcasts, books, television, movies. All the things I have running twenty four-seven to ensure I don’t actually have to, you know, think about stuff too much.

This lifestyle poses multiple issues, and right now the one I’m concerned with is mental space. What I mean is the amount of me I actually give to the stories I’m reading. I want to really take them in.

Pre-blogging, I used to reread books all the time. This was partly a money thing, yeah, but it was also a healthy activity, I think. To relive the joy a certain story produced or rewrite your relationship with it altogether.

I like the way that different mes read in different ways.

So with that in mind, I present a few of the YAs that were regular companions of my teens. I think it might be time to introduce them to 23-year-old me.

summerrereads

Becoming Bindy Mackenzie – Jaclyn Moriarty

Bindy Mackenzie is the smartest – and kindest – girl at Ashbury High. She likes to share her knowledge of common teen anxieties and offers lunchtime advisory sessions in a relaxed setting (the locker room). But then Bindy discovers that, despite all her hard work, NOBODY LIKES HER! It’s time to banish benevolent Bindy – and release ruthless Bindy instead.

Bindy records every moment of her new rebellious project – from The Philosophical Musings of Bindy Mackenzie to extracts from her essays. But her scrapbook is also the key to a bizarre myserty – with Bindy herself at the centre. Only her friends can help her now. If only she had some.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick’s just seen the girl who dumped him walk in… with a new guy. What else can he do but ask the strange girl next to him to be his new girlfriend for the next five minutes?

Norah would do anything to avoid conversation with the not not-friend girl who dumped Nick… and to get over the Evil Ex whom Norah never really totally dumped. What else can she do but answer Nick’s question by making out with him?

With one electric, unexpected kiss, the five-minute couple of Nick and Norah set off on an unchartered adventure called the “first date” that will turn into an infinite night of falling in and out (and in and out, and maybe in and maybe out) or love. Theirs is a first date of music, laughter, heartache, confusion, passion, taxi driver wisdom, and a jacket named Salvatore. And of course a killer soundtrack.

As Nick and Norah wander through the middle-of-the-night mystic maze of Manhattan, they share the kind of night you want to never end, where every minute counts and every moment flickers between love and disaster.

13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson

If your free-spirited aunt left you 13 little blue envelopes:

Would you follow the directions? Would you travel around the world? Would you open the envelopes one by one?

Inside envelope 1 is money and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

Inside envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

Inside envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4 Ginny and  a playwright/theif/man-about-town called Keith go to Scotland together, with disastrous – though really romantic – results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes…

This Lullaby – Sarah Dessen

Remy always know when to give a guy “the speech” – right after the initial romantic rush, but before anything gets too serious. She’s had her fair share of boyfriends, and she’s learned all there is to learn from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. So why is it that Remy can’t seem to dump Dexter? It can’t be his name. It can’t be that he’s messy and disorganised. And it certainly isn’t that he’s a musician – just like Remy’s father, a man she never knew because he left before she was born. Could it be that Remy’s romantic rules to live by don’t apply anymore?

The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen

A long dull summer stretches ahead of Macy while her boyfriend Jason is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of her father.

But sometimes unexpected things can happen – things like the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things like meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s life upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder if it really is better to be safe than sorry.