by Jennifer Echols
February 7, 2012
Source: bought from indie bookstore
Mature content: none
I'm a person who likes to categorize. I always divide Jennifer Echols books into two categories: spicy (like Love Story) and sweet (like Endless Summer). I like them both.
This book fell into the sweet category. It's a charming book with a non-preachy message, a book that girls of all ages can enjoy, a great book for moms to buy and share with their teens and tweens.
My summary: Gemma Van Cleve dreams of becoming a majorette, just like her mother before her. But Gemma is overweight. She's an amazing baton twirler, but the thought of wearing a skimpy costume and standing in front of a stadium full of people fills her with dread.
Still, Gemma musters up the courage to try out and makes the squad, along with her best friend Addison. Gemma works hard to lose weight, and arrives at summer majorette camp filled with excitement. At camp, she spots Max Hirayama. He's the most beautiful boy she's ever seen.
But, straight out of a Taylor Swift song, Addison steals Max out right from under Gemma's nose. After all, Addison is the popular princess, while Gemma's the quirky girl. The funny girl. The sidekick. Gemma ends up dating Max's friend Carter, even though they have nothing in common. Gemma doesn't stand up to Addison. Gemma can't tell Max how she feels. She's afraid.
My take: I loved the way that this book touched on so many issues with such a light touch: friendship, body image, the discomfort and strength that comes out of being different, self-esteem, following your dreams.
Gemma is an irresistible heroine. She's funny and smart, but filled with so much self-doubt that I wanted to yell at her, cheer for her, hug her. Addison is the classic BFF/frenemy, but her callousness is clearly borne of insecurity. Then there's adorable Max. The book does a great job of delving into Max's insecurities: he sometimes feels out of place as a Japanese-American living in the South, he's a graceful kicker on a football team of burly guys, he's the athlete son of two Ph.D's.
I was glued to this book until the last page, hoping that Gemma and Max would find the courage to stand up for themselves and find their way to each other. Though I'd argue that this falls into the "sweet" Jennifer Echols category, this sweet book also has enough depth and heart to make it the perfect Valentine's week read :)