Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What We're Reading: Realistic Fiction

The Story of Us
by Deb Caletti
389 pages
Realistic fiction
Reading level: high school
Reviewed by: Melissa

S Y N O P S I S :
This is Cricket's story, but set in the middle of so many other people's stories as well--her mom's, her brother Ben's, her boyfriend Janssen's, some grandparents and aunts, a couple of friends, and a whole other cast of characters she is just meeting. Cricket's mom had a bad marriage with an abusive husband (Cricket and Ben's father), followed by two relationships that were on the way to the altar when Cricket's mom ducked out. But now she has met a great guy, Dan Jax, and their wedding is happening in a week. Cricket and her family are at a beautiful ocean-front bed and breakfast inn to meet, greet, and hopefully meld with the groom's family before the big event, and boy, is there a lot of chaos. Even the family dogs have come along to make their peace with one another, because after the wedding, Dan Jax, Cricket, her mom, and the dogs are all moving into Dan's house in Seattle.

Cricket, meanwhile, is at a crossroads: She has graduated from high school but isn't sure whether she wants to be home or away for college (or even go!); they have all moved out of the family home in preparation for the big merger, so she is feeling especially rootless; she did "something terrible" to her wonderful long-time boyfriend Janssen, with the result that they are on a break; and the innkeepers' gorgeous and charismatic son, Ash, is confusing her emotions even more. And then there are the worries about her family--will her mom repeat her runaway-bride behavior? What is Grandpa's secret that he isn't sharing with anyone? Can she ever get along with Dan Jax's spoiled and snotty daughters, Heather and Amy? Will her beloved Jupiter (her elderly beagle) be able to hold her own against the young and rambunctious Cruiser (Dan's dog) in the family dynamic?

R E V I E W :

I really liked this book. I have liked most of Caletti's previous novels, with some verging on love, and this is one of those. When you see the title, The Story of Us, and it's a teen novel, you figure it's going to be a romance about a couple and their relationship, but while that aspect is certainly a present and recurring theme throughout the book, this novel is so much more. There's a lot going on in this book and in Cricket's life, and the author doesn't shortchange any of it--you get the details in all their gloriously chaotic delight and despair. The relationships are real and true, and explored in a thoughtful manner, but it's also not just a talk-talk-talk, internal monologue kind of book--there is action, there are incidents and circumstances, and there are authentic emotions at play between all the characters. There are also some funny moments, and some really, really sad ones. I particularly enjoyed the parallels Caletti, er, Cricket and Janssen draw between people and dogs, and the similarities and differences in how they act, react, and treat others--it's a core part of the book.

The cover: Meh. It's pretty and appropriate--goes okay with the story, attractive enough, nothing really special.

Rating: I would give it a 4.5 out of 5. If you like realistic fiction about relationships of all kinds, you will like this book!

The author's website will tell you more about her, her books, and her dogs!

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