Review: FML by Shaun Hutchinson

FML Book Cover FML
Shaun Hutchinson

Tonight’s the night: Simon’s big chance to finally get with Cassie. Cassie, who he’s loved for ages. Cassie, who is newly boyfriend-free. Cassie, who just happens to be throwing the biggest party of the year. Simon’s plan is simple: He’ll go to the party, she’ll fall in love with him, they’ll make out like crazy, and the night will be a complete success.

But things don’t ever go as planned…especially when it comes to Cassie.

In two alternating plotlines, Simon goes after the girl of his dreams and stumbles toward his destiny. It’s one night, one party, and a thousand ways for things to go wrong…but a million ways for them to go right.

Review:

I never went to any real parties back when I was in high school (yeah, yeah, I was a dork), but if they were anything like the party in FML I really missed out during my teenage years.

If you’re in the mood for a fun, clever story featuring unique characters, a wild party, and a dose of alternate realities, FML is the book for you. Simon, the protagonist, has had a crush on Cassie, one of the most popular girls at school, for years. When he hears that she’s having a senior year blowout – and that she’s newly single – Simon decides to use the opportunity to finally profess his love for her.

FML starts as one story but quickly diverges into two separate storylines, showing the different ways the party could unfold based on Simon’s decisions as well as events that are out of his control. It’s almost like one of those old “pick your adventure” books in that it allows you to see how different decisions affect the outcome of the story.

At times it was a little confusing trying to keep the events of both storylines straight, but doing so was well worth the effort. It was really cool watching how the same events and interactions occurred in both plots but in very different ways. Plus, everything came together perfectly at the end – I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting resolution.

I had such a great time reading FML. There are a lot of wild, entertaining stunts going on at the party, from contact Scrabble to a poolside re-enactment of Romeo and Juliet. There’s also the really fun aspect of the party being a “barter” party, which basically means that all of the party-goers are running around the whole night trying to come up with crazy schemes to trade one object for another until they end up with a specific target object. The revelers and their zany antics serve as a great backdrop for the story; in a way they’re almost like part of the setting more than they are actual characters.

The characters who do serve a purpose beyond being part of the background aren’t your normal teen scene stock characters. Cassie isn’t conventionally beautiful, nor is she confident and bold like many popular girls in books and movies. She has depth, flaws, and unique personality traits, and I could see why Simon likes her. Likewise, Cassie’s ex-boyfriend isn’t a tool, but a good guy who legitimately loves her and is nice to her and others, even the less-than-cool kids at school. Simon’s gay best friends are popular, not the objects of ridicule, and there’s not one big, bad bully but several, each of whom is very distinct.

Again, I may not have gotten to go to any actual parties as a teen, but reading about the one in FML is the next best thing. If you’re up for a crazy, unexpectedly fun read, check out FML today.

Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point Book Cover Pivot Point
Kasie West

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with – her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not. 

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school – but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through…and who she can’t live without.

Review:

Have you ever stopped to wonder how your life might have turned out differently if just one detail had been altered? As an example, I always joke with my husband that we were lucky not to live in the same school district growing up. We started dating at 16, but that probably wouldn’t have been the case if we’d attended the same high school; we were in vastly different social circles and wouldn’t have looked twice at one another. Because we first met on neutral territory, however – a dance company located halfway between his school and mine – we were able to get to know each other’s true personality without the influence of our classmates and established cliques getting in the way.

The point of the above illustration is that one small detail has the potential to drastically change a person’s future, a concept that lies at the core of Pivot Point.  The protagonist, Addie, lives in a place called the Compound, where individuals with supernatural abilities hone their skills and go about their lives apart from the rest of the world. Addie’s gift is that she is able to “Search” her future and see how her life will play out based on the decisions she makes.

When Addie’s parents unexpectedly announce that they’re getting a divorce, she must decide which parent she’s going to live with. Is it better to stay with her strict mother in the familiarity of the Compound, where Addie has lived her entire life? Or should she move away to the “Norm” world, where she’ll be forced to hide her special abilities, in order to maintain her close relationship with her father? To answer this question, Addie decides to Search her future to see which path will make her happier.

The chapters in Pivot Point alternate between the two possible versions of Addie’s future. There are several key elements and occurrences that appear in both versions, but the effect they have on Addie and her loved ones differs greatly from one version to the other. This provides some delicious irony, as the reader has the benefit of viewing both possible outcomes and knowing just how dire the consequences of Addie’s various choices will be.

It’s especially fascinating to watch Addie’s interactions with her two potential love interests; both of the boys will play a role in her future regardless of which parent she decides to live with, but what those roles will be are largely dependent on the path Addie chooses. Foreshadowing and details that initially seem minor but are ultimately revealed as important are woven into the plot, tying everything together expertly.

The unique premise and nearly flawless execution would have been more than enough to convince me of West’s immeasurable talent, but my high opinion of her was cemented by how well she navigated the ending of her story. It wasn’t the conclusion that I’d been hoping for, but it was the conclusion that was right for the story, and I really admire that. I highly recommend Pivot Point and can’t wait to read the sequel!