A really awesome mess


A really awesome mess – Trish Cook and Brendan Helpin

I kept wanting to call this A beautiful mess after the app, but they are two very different things. This was an ARC gratefully received by netgalley, I chose it because the description likened it to Revolutionary Road, Juno and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, so I decided it had to be awesome, right? Well….

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 catalogue– 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.

Like Nick and Norah (and probably the only reason why it is anything like Nick and Norah), the chapters alternate between Justin and Emmy as they tell their stories of their time at Heartland Academy and the hijinx that they get up to with the other kids in their Anger Management sessions. I’ll be honest, the first chapter had me rolling my eyes and sighing, because seriously, if I have to read another sentence where some middle class American kid feels so hard done by because their parents love them I am gonna cut a bitch. I’m glad I stuck with it though, because after that initial chapter it did get a bit good. Once the real reason why Emmy is at Heartland is revealed, she stops being irritating and starts being relatable. Justin was easily my favourite of the two, I found myself warming to him straight away.

Comparing books to other books is always a little bit risky, I didn’t think that this was really anything like any of the things it was compared with. Unlike Juno, I didn’t find myself laughing, unlike Revolutionary Road, I didn’t find myself wallowing in sorrow and unlike Nick and Norah, I didn’t feel like this book spoke to me, but it was endearing and the character development of this group of messed up kids just trying to make sense of life, the universe and everything was very charming. I think the whole bit with the pig was a little contrived and with maybe a different plot direction, this could have been much better received, but overall it was entertaining enough. I would have liked it to have been a bit longer, it was obvious from the description that Emmy and Justin would end up being important to each other and I think had the book been longer, we would have had more of an insight into their relationship blooming and that could have been adorable.

A Really Awesome Mess is kind of the perfect opener for people wanting to read books about mental illnesses, it’s lighter than say Girl, Interrupted or The Bell Jar but adult enough with some real issues inside it to give the impression that you’re reading something hefty and of importance.
It definitely gets a thumbs up from me.


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