Monday, August 24, 2015

This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup

Title: This Ordinary Life
Author: Jennifer Walkup
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 240
Genres: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Stars: 3
Goodreads Link

Though this book had an interesting concept, the characters and the plot fell a little flat for me. Honestly, if the book wasn't such a short and sweet read, I may have given up and DNF'd this. I ended up giving it 3 stars, but I was actually planning on 2 stars until the very end. However, it did have some solid points and redeeming qualities!

For those who don't know what This Ordinary Life is about:

High-school radio host Jasmine Torres's life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around.

That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future.

Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep her from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her.

Jasmine can’t control everything. Not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health--not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but maybe what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all.

Right away, I loved the idea. Epilepsy is such a misunderstood and looked-over illness. Yes, mental illnesses are getting more attention in literature nowadays, but we've still got a long way to go before we diversify our literature enough to include representations of all the struggles teens may face. I had never read a book with characters who have epilepsy--I loved that Walkup was tackling this! Not to mention that I'm a sucker for older sisters who take on the mom role; the relationship between the siblings always pulls at my heartstrings. I adored Danny and Jasmine's relationship. They were completely adorable, and I loved how Jazz interacted with Danny. It was hilarious how she acted like an overprotective mom to the point that Danny kept whining, "I'm a big boy!"

Unfortunately, I didn't really see much character depth or development, which disappointed me a lot. I love a good character-driven story. This Ordinary Life just didn't have that. I felt like all of the characters were very forced. Jasmine was the radio girl. Wes was the witty boy. Frankie was the helpful best friend. It seemed that Walkup was just trying to fit the characters into the role and then failed to develop them any more than that. This meant that I just didn't find the characters or their interactions very believable. They weren't real. If I'm completely honest, Wes was the worst. Yes, of course I liked him. He was a fun, likable character. But, as a seventeen-year-old myself, I can tell you that people like him don't truly exist. The charming, witty, slightly off-center quirky, upfront guy: he isn't real. His conversations with Jasmine? They would never happen. No one would actually say that, no one would actually text like that. I just couldn't let myself go in this book because it didn't feel real to me.

I just felt like Walkup grazed the surface with everything. She just plopped stuff into the novel to check off some boxes. Cheating ex-boyfriend? Check. Quirky love interest? Check. Fun best friend? Check. Unique main character who think she's carrying the world on her shoulders? Check. This book just felt like it was trying too hard with everything. That made the novel drag on a bit. Luckily, the book wasn't long so I didn't start to resent it too much.

Again, there were some redeeming qualities. I loved the idea. I loved the topic that Walkup was tackling. I loved the relationships (especially the familial ones). I loved the end, which tied everything up nicely. So, though I was considering 2 stars, I bumped it up to 3. This book just didn't end up being my cup of tea.

I recommend this novel to someone interested in the epilepsy aspect; interested in a quirky romance as a quick, short and sweet read; interested in complex family dynamics; and interested in radio and chasing dreams. Like I said: well done and interesting, just not for me!