Author: Trish Cook, Brendan Halpin
Date Published: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Egmont USA
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
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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 catalog-- 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.
A Really Awesome Mess portrays the psychological problems of teenagers in a surreal narrative, focusing more on positive situations rather than leaning into drama.
Don't get me wrong. I understand that psychological problems are serious. They shouldn't be taken lightly, and people who have such problems should not be judged or discriminated. While I understand the gravity of psychological problems, I also recognize this book for what it is: fiction. So for those people who viewed this book negatively, I'm sorry but I have to disagree. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly appreciate that it portrayed the characters in a positive light rather than dwell on the drama.
To be honest, I didn't like Emmy in the beginning. I don't like that she's anorexic, and I really loathe the fact that she became anorexic because of a boy. Of all the reasons, right? But that's just me. And while I understand the feeling of displacement she felt as regards her family, I didn't like how she treated her adoptive parents. Why dwell on the negatives when you have so much love around you? I just don't get that. I also really didn't like her skewed perception of beauty at the beginning. I even wanted to bash her head for it. Thankfully, she's a fictional character and I'm not. Oh, but the damage I could have done... Tsk, tsk...
As for Justin, well, he's a guy so I wouldn't know exactly just how he thinks. I do however understand that he's only looking for an anchor -- someone to ground him and keep him in line. His parents' separation did a number on him so turning into suicide and sex became his refuge. When I first got to know Justin in the book, I have to admit that he seemed pretty cool. He appeared to be someone in control, a smooth operator, and generally a really nice guy, but during the end part of the book, it became apparent to me that Justin is just as lost as the others. He's just really good at hiding his pains. When I got to know him more, I felt glad that he found kindred spirits inside Heartland Academy.
When I was reading at the beginning of the story, I was seriously doubtful about how a bunch of really different and really flawed individuals could fit in together and make progress without killing each other first. As the story progressed, I came to understand that something flawed, though flawed, could actually work. In the beginning, they were still adjusting with each other, but in time, they were able to tune into each other and actually progress on their therapy. In the process, they also found true friends.
The best part about this book? Definitely the part where they liberated a pig. Hands down! They couldn't have accomplished such a thing if it weren't for each other's support.
I also appreciate the snark and sarcasm displayed by the characters. I mean, you could never really be inappropriate with people you barely know because that would just be weird. But with the people whose weirdness is compatible with yours, inappropriate behavior and words are just normal. It's kind of ironic really.
Lastly, I really appreciate the end message that this story was trying to convey through its barrage of really weird yet insanely awesome characters: "Living took a lot more courage."