A REALLY, AWESOME MESS by Brendan Halpin and Trish Cook Book Review
Publication Date: July 23rd 2013 by EgmontUSA
Rating: – Poor
Book Summary: 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.
A Really, Awesome Mess Book Review Overview:
- Unlikeable protagonists but diverse and interesting cast of secondary characters
- The plot gets out of hand and I ended up skimming the last half of the book
I picked up A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin on a whim. I was looking for something to read, and A Really Awesome Mess kind of reminded me of a younger-self favorite: Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story, a novel about a teen who ends up at a psychiatric facility after a suicide attempt. A Really Awesome Mess tries to follow in the same vein by mixing mental health with humor. Unfortunately, A Really Awesome Mess is unsuccessful.
Emmy and Justin arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school for messed up teens. But Emmy and Justin refuse to admit that they both have problems. Emmy had always felt like an outsider in her own family. She was adopted from China, and she looks nothing like her family. After a scandalous photo of her spread around her school, Emmy retaliates by spreading rumors on Facebook. Justin was never able to properly cope with his parents’ divorce. When he overdoses on a handful of Tylenol, Justin hits rock bottom. In A Really Awesome Mess, Emmy and Justin make new friends and learn how to cope with their problems.
One of the downfalls of A Really Awesome Mess is that the two protagonists, who alternate narrating the story, are not likeable. To be honest, they’re quite annoying. At first, I thought that this would be the kind of story where you hate the main characters, but you end up growing to love them. This was not the case. As the story progressed, the more I rolled my eyes at the characters. It was really hard to empathize with them when I didn’t even like them.
A highlight of A Really Awesome Mess is the diverse cast of secondary characters. Emmy and Justin are forced to work as a team with others in their anger management class. Mohammed, Chip, Jenny, and Diana all had distinct personalities. So even if there were a ton of people to keep track of, it never got confusing.
I enjoyed the group’s dynamics, but then the plot takes a turn for the worse. The antics that the group gets into just get utterly ridiculous. I know I’m probably not supposed to take this book all that seriously. But to be honest, I really didn’t find myself laughing throughout the book. There were a few lines that deserved a chuckle, but for the most part, A Really Awesome Mess was silly, not funny. I had to resist rolling my eyes in a few scenes, and I ended up having to force myself through the last half of the book.
Once I reached the climax of the story, it was difficult to take the protagonists seriously. It’s hard for me to feel like they accomplished anything in terms of getting better. The characters never felt sincere to me when they came upon their turning points. I never really felt that Emmy or Justin improved by the end of the book.
Overall, A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin is a mess not worth reading. The unlikeable protagonists will just have you rolling your eyes from beginning to end.