She Loves You, She Loves You Not... by Julie Anne Peters
Published: June 1st, 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary YA
Page Count: 278
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: I bought it! I had a giftcard, and it was really cheap from Chapters and Indigo.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Alyssa thought she knew who she was. She had her family and her best friends and, most important, she had Sarah. Sarah, her girlfriend, with whom she dreamed with about the day they could move far away and live out and proud and accepted for themselves, instead of having to hide their relationship.
Alyssa never thought she would have to make that move by herself, but disowned by her father and cut off from everyone she loves, she is forced to move hundreds of miles away to live with Carly, the biological mother she barely knows, in a town where everyone immediately dismisses her as "Carly's girl." As Alyssa struggles to forget her past and come to terms with her future, will she be able to build a new life for herself and believe in love again? Or will she be forced to relive the mistakes that have cost her everything and everyone she cared about?
Review: I've talked a bit before about how I enjoy the kind of "life after the big deal thing happens" books, and this is one of them. I like seeing people deal with consequences and life changes more, sometimes, than I like reading about the drama and the falling apart bits. That's a thing I enjoy. (Obviously, did you see how many blog posts I just found? And there are probably more! But it was getting to an embarrassingly long time ago and an embarrassing quality of blog post, so I stopped.) The small town setting also worked really well for me, and generally, I enjoyed this.
Let's jump into the other bits, because my face kind of hurts and I'm debating an ice pack. Wisdom teeth suck.
Plot Talk: It's pretty much what is says in the summary. Stuff happened, girl moves to a new down, girl deals with new town and old stuff. I don't think it's the most original plot on the world, I guess, but it works fine. Yeah, you've probably read something similar before, but whatever. It was cool with me.
Characters: Alyssa is quite honestly pretty unlikeable. And I liked that! She hates driving and is a terrible driver at that, isn't an altogether sympathetic character, makes a lot of really horrifically ill-advised decisions. She is definitely a complex, interesting character, and I don't think everyone will like her, honestly. I'm into that. I don't approve of everything she does, and there are things I'll probably mention, but she is definitely interesting to read about.
One thing I liked a lot was that her love interest was a WOC, because, yeah, that's always nifty. She's also Canadian, so excuse me a second while I wave a flag. Yay patriotism and all that. And I think her depiction as a person of colour is handled pretty well, but I am by no means an expert there. I did a bit of googling, and didn't get anything I could link to, so hopefully there wasn't any issues with that. I also thought that character, Finn, was a nifty character. She's kind of got a rebel without a cause thing going on, and that's a thing I can get behind.
I think on average, Peters writes very complex, and interesting characters. Not all of them are sympathetic, or even morally good characters, but they are interesting. I especially liked Alyssa's mother, who is much like Alyssa in being complicated and imperfect. With Carly, Alyssa's mother, it is really nice to see someone who is a sex-worker treated generally treated with respect, and not degraded or insulted by the narrative. However, while better than most, it has some issues. The language can be pretty whorephobic/sex-shaming*, which does make sense because of Alyssa's POV, but full-service sex work is treated as something much worse than Carly's dancing in a club.
I'm not explaining it well, I don't think, but the terminology used definitely has some issues. Carly doesn't even say "I don't do that kind of sex work" or something like that. She says "I'm not a wh*re." I realize it's YA, and there would be pushback, but I think objectively, that still has issues, and there could have been better ways to go.
PG-13 stuff: It's for older YA readers, probably. Underage drinking, some sex which I think is handled very well, just mature themes in general. Alyssa's father has a really bad reaction to finding out she's a lesbian, so if that would bother you, maybe pass on this one. I will say, though, and it's totally a spoiler so you can skip this part if you want, but I know some people appreciate knowing this, there is a happy ending when it comes to the romance. There's not any tragedy or anything.
Maybe the only other thing I'd mention is that there is generally a fair amount of age difference between Alyssa and the people she dates (both younger and older), so if that's a thing for you that you don't enjoy, maybe pass on this one if you don't think you'll enjoy it.
Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: Like I said, I think the depiction of Finn is good, but I won't say as it's entirely non-problematic in an "I'm an expert" way, just in an "I hope it was" way. And I think some elements of Carly's work are handled well, but others don't seem to be handled as well. The narrative changes up the tense and POV (going from first to second person), and while I liked that, I could see other people not being fond of it.
I also did not really like that Alyssa is a little too aggressive about trying to get her girlfriends/love interests to come out, which is pretty uncool. I mean, the worst case scenario of outing people without their consent is people die, so that's a problem. I could easily see people really not liking that, and I won't blame them in the least. That definitely was not my favourite part of her character. I also felt almost like she was very... I don't want to say defensive, but maybe a little... mean? I don't know. I'm kind of uncertain about how I felt about that whole business.
Cover comments: It's very pretty. It actually made me think the book was going to be a touch darker/more depressing than it actually was, though, but it's fine.
Conclusion: I always sound like I didn't like stuff at all! I definitely did enjoy this. I spent a Friday night reading it all in one sitting. I absolutely adored the whole small town/tourist trap in the off-season angle, and how much of a city mouse Alyssa was when confronted with nature. I liked seeing a character that hates driving. The ending is very, very sweet and hopeful. A lot of the narrative is about the fallout of Alyssa coming out to her father, so if you're over those stories, this might not be your thing, but I thought there was enough of everything else to balance it. Bear in mind, also, this book is already 5 years old, and a lot of things change in half a decade.
This was solid to me. It had some definite issues, but I don't regret reading it, and it probably even gets to keep its shelf space. I don't think it's going to work for everyone, but I can see some people connecting to it, and enjoying it a lot. It wasn't phenomenal for me, but neither was it horrible, and I genuinely enjoyed it. The writing just worked for me in most areas. I'm giving it three and a half roses.
- *I'm sincerely hoping I'm using the best language possible here, but if I'm not, leave a comment or shoot me an email or a DM on Twitter or a messenger pigeon, and I'll change it if it's needed.
- There's a character who uses a wheelchair who owns a cafe. He wears gloves when he cooks, because his hands touch the rims of his wheelchair. Okay, sure. But if you touch stuff with your gloves that's germ-y, your gloves are dirty now, and they need to be changed. Gloves don't just stay not-dirty. They never mention changing the gloves and THAT BOTHERED ME.
That's about it! Hope you enjoyed this review.
Peace and cookies,