Phoebe Martin, 16, is a band-member and book nerd. She reads all the time, maintaining that “normalcy is overrated,” especially in comparison to the romantic encounters in young adult fantasies featuring intrepid females and “swoon-worthy” males. She has a crush on her junior class president Kris Lambert, because he is an exact match to the mental picture she has of the hero in one of her favorite books. Everyone tells her he’s a jerk, but she has apparently been socialized to value looks over inner worth. And besides, shouldn’t someone that good-looking be heroic in character?
Her group of friends try to convince her otherwise. In particular, her BFF Em attempts to sell her on Dev, a fellow band member who is sending all sorts of signals out to Phoebe to which she is oblivious. She has known him for a long time, and as she explains to Em, “I mean, he’s really cute, but he’s Dev.”
Meanwhile, Phoebe is making a notebook out of quotes from her favorite YA book moments to function as a “relationship instruction manual” to guide her in potentially romantic situations. The quotes are badly written and wildly unrealistic, but Phoebe lives inside these books so much she doesn’t see that reality can’t actually meet up to those standards, especially when the characters she loves so much are goddesses or fae creatures.
Em tries to argue with her: “You know people have been hooking up for millennia without the help of books, right?” – all to no avail. Once again Phoebe insists “fiction is the best kind of reality.” “No,” Em rejoins, “reality is the best kind of reality.”
And thus we proceed, chapter after chapter, until Phoebe finally arrives at the obvious conclusion. The process was a bit painful, being so repetitive and inevitable.
[One wishes the author had at least elevated the story with some of the insight of Janet Radway, who has written extensively on the romance novel’s cultural significance, and the ways in which romance novels reinforce the notion that males must be the sole or at least primary source of pleasure for females. (See for example, “Women Read the Romance: The Interaction of Text and Context” by Janice A. Radway, Feminist Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Spring, 1983), pp. 53-78)]
Clearly in this story, Phoebe desires to live a life dominated by a consuming romance. She doesn’t have any other goals besides reading more bad books.
Evaluation: The plot idea wasn’t horrible, but the writing was rather repetitive, unsophisticated, and trite. I had to push myself to get through it, although I think a tween audience might enjoy it.
Published by Spencer Hill Press, 2016