by Wendelin Van Draanen
Summary: The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she flipped. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he ran. That’s pretty much the pattern for these two neighbors until the eighth grade, when, just as Juli is realizing Bryce isn’t as wonderful as she thought, Bryce is starting to see that Juli is pretty amazing. How these two teens manage to see beyond the surface of things and come together makes for a comic and poignant romance.
I absolutely adored this book. It was so sweet (and don't assume that means it was just some fluffy little romance book, it wasn't, there was way more depth to the story).
The romance in the book wasn't quite a romance - it was more...that first crush. The first one that really gets under your skin and it happens when you're still young and innocent enough for anything beyond a simple kiss or holding hands to even cross your mind. And the funny thing was, even though it was that innocent crush, it was still more real than 90% of the romances you'll find in older YA novels where they're actually supposed to be love stories.
The characters were written brilliantly, I could relate to Juli so much; I was one of those girls too, the ones who were more likely to climb trees than play with dolls (well, I actually did both but my gran still jokes about how I was always up a tree whenever they would try to find me - sometimes wearing a dress). And her crush, yeah, definitely related to that. There was a boy that I convinced myself I was in love with and now, looking back, I realise I didn't really know him. And that is what this book is about - that crush feeling and it's intense and innocent and feels like love...and it is, in a way, just different than when we're older. I thought Juli was a lovely character and I bet so many girls, no matter what age they are, will really connect with her.
Bryce was great too. He screwed up, he made mistakes but he was a kid and he was still in the process of figuring out the kind of person he wanted to be.
Juli's family were awesome and Chet, Bryce's grandad, he was so lovely and I wish I could keep him. It made me miss my own grandads so much but in a good way, you know? Missing people isn't always bad and I liked that the book made me feel that.
I loved the writing in the book and how it alternated between Juli's point of view and Bryce and effortlessly showed the two different sides of the story. I found myself grabbing the nearest piece of paper (which was actually a press release - oops) and tearing it up to mark pages with quotes that I loved. Examples:
"For a time, all I could see was her beauty, but then…well, let’s just say I discovered she wasn’t a fraction of the person Renée was. (…) It’s easy to look back and see it, and it’s easy to give the advice, but the sad fact is, most people don’t look beneath the surface until it’s too late."
"And for the first time in my life, I had that feeling. You know, like the world is moving all around you, all beneath you, all inside you, and you’re floating. Floating in midair. And the only thing keeping you from drifting away is the other person’s eyes. They’re connected to yours by some invisible physical force, and they hold you fast while the rest of the world swirls and twirls and falls completely away."
The book was really addictive, I didn't intend to read the whole thing right away, I just wanted to read a few pages to check it out then I found myself still reading at 3am, unable to stop and I didn't expect the story to hook me like that, stories with younger characters rarely do.
When I got to the last page, the ending felt kind of abrupt and I was like:
"WHAT? It cannot end there!"
"...There has to be more pages, right?"
But then I realised that it was kind of the perfect place to end the book, even though I desperately wanted to read more and for it to be longer (which is a good sign - it left me wanting more). You should go read the book, I definitely recommend it - it's one of those books like Tuck Everlasting where you could probably read it at any age and it'll still have an impact, even though the characters are young.
Now, I wanna go watch the movie version, because the movie looks cute too.
On another note, pet hate: when a beautiful cover is ruined by one of those obnoxious "NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE" labels, and it's not even a sticker that can be peeled off: no, it's printed on there. The version of the cover I have would've been so lovely without that (but the movie tie-in did have some beautiful movie stills in the middle). :(