From Goodreads: The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she flipped. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he ran. That’s pretty much the pattern for these two neighbors until the eighth grade, when, just as Juli is realizing Bryce isn’t as wonderful as she thought, Bryce is starting to see that Juli is pretty amazing. How these two teens manage to see beyond the surface of things and come together makes for a comic and poignant romance.
One of my students recommended this novel for me, so I picked it up the other day. It’s a pretty quick read, and for the most part I enjoyed it, but truth be told, I’m a little torn about this coming of age novel. In terms of writing, I think it’s great. Van Draanen is very talented and she created a cute “he said, she said” novel. I really enjoyed reading both perspectives of each situation, and I can just imagine how this really happens in boy/girl relationships. Van Draanen does a phenomenal job capturing the voices of her young teen characters, and I enjoyed that aspect of the novel very much. However, I found the storyline itself a little boring. I think part of this has to do with the fact that I’m not a young adult anymore, but even so, I wasn’t enamored with the story like I’d hoped to be. Reading about chickens and trees isn’t really interesting to me, and although that is just a small portion of the novel overall, all the scenarios seemed a little drab for my taste.
Out of all the characters in the novel, the only one I actually like is Bryce’s grandfather—he’s the only one who seems to have his head on straight. Juli, I think, is creepy. She has a stalker mentality and is too easily hurt by others. Bryce, on the other hand, is just a jerk. While I was originally on his side, his true colors began to show and I began to harbor a dislike for him. I am thankful for the double-sided view though, as I was able to understand both viewpoints as each character told their experiences, but just the same, the characters irked me. While it is obvious that the characters change as the story unfolds, my main complaint is that I feel the novel has no ending. It just stops—and while it may allude to a happy ending, the fact that it wasn’t concluded is what I have a hard time with. While some readers may enjoy this aspect of the novel, it just wasn’t for me.
So… I watched the movie too, since I’m putting this on the outside reading project for my students, and they’ll have to watch the movie if they choose this book for the project. Well, I wasn’t impressed. The acting was alright, and I was glad that the director stuck to the plot line for the most part, but it didn’t dazzle me. I guess that is to be expected, because the book didn’t hold my attention either, but I was hoping that maybe the movie version would be a little more interesting for me. I’m sorry to say it wasn’t, but again, my students seem to love this book, so I’m sure they’ll enjoy the movie as well. Personally, I can only give them two and a half stars all around.