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 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?
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.