Thursday, June 27, 2013

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend - Review

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend (Confessions, # 2)

By: Louise Rozett

Published: June 25th 2013 by Harlequin

288 pages

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Source: Publisher via NetGalley (Thank you)

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Goodreads description--Rose Zarelli has big plans for sophomore year—everything is going to be different. This year, she’s going to be the talented singer with the killer voice, the fabulous girl with the fashionista best friend, the brainiac who refuses to let Jamie Forta jerk her around...

...but if she’s not careful, she’s also going to be the sister who misses the signals, the daughter who can only think about her own pain, the “good girl” who finds herself in mid-scandal again (because no good deed goes unpunished) and possibly worst of all...the almost-girlfriend.

When all else fails, stop looking for love and go find yourself.

After finishing Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend, I went back to re-read my review of Confessions of an Angry Girl. What I found re-reading that review was that almost everything I said about Confessions of an Angry Girl was completely turned around in Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend. So let me address those things first.

In my review of Confessions of an Angry Girl, I said that considering the title, I felt that Rose actually didn't display as much anger as I was expecting. In Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend, we get an extra level of Rose's coping and anger when she discusses the violent images that she sees periodically. This would have been an added bonus to Confessions of an Angry Girl and seems to me that it would have fit in better with that book.

I was worried after reading Confessions of an Angry Girl that Rose wasn't concerned about whether or not Jamie actually respects her. But I felt that Jamie was a much better character all around in Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend. There are still some questions there about whether or not he's right for Rose, but I definitely understood Jamie much more after reading Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend.

Finally, in my review of Confessions of an Angry Girl, I was impressed with Rose's ability to be her own person. She stood up to her own standards apart from everyone around her. In Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend, I was disappointed with Rose. Her self confidence issues really drive me batty. She's constantly talking down to herself. She thinks she's ugly. She's always comparing herself with her friends or any other female ever. While this is extremely frustrating to me because I guess I've gotten to a place where I love and accept myself for who I am, I also find her thought process to be extremely typical of a fifteen year old girl. So in this way, I really felt like Rose took a step back. It was nice to see that one of her teachers addresses this with her.

"Rose, do you know what I've noticed about you since I met you a year ago? You're mean--to yourself."

A slight pet peeve of mine is how anytime I've read a book where a character is in therapy, that character never really gives therapy a chance. They don't participate willingly or fully. They think the advice of the counselor is stupid. And they just generally look down on the whole process. Granted I haven't had much experience with therapy--just pre-marriage counselling--but I think the whole experience can be really beneficial. I think most people would benefit from some good counseling and therapy sessions. Just my opinion.

There were a couple of things about Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend that were really small things but things that I found extremely annoying. Here's a couple of quotes as examples: "I look down at my feet, squeezed into my flats, and imagine that if I'd just worn my boots, this wouldn't be happening." REALLY? I mean I'm sure that's not supposed to be literal, but I couldn't help but think "what a stupid thought!" And "It's the first time I've seen Kristin in anything other than a cheerleading outfit..." Seriously? You go to school with this girl every day and she wears her cheerleading outfit EVERY day? You've never seen her wear anything else? Not quite sure why those things bugged me so much, but they just did.

I did like the way that things flipped from Confessions of an Angry Girl where Rose was the focus and target of bullying to flip where Rose witnesses others being bullied and her reaction to that. While Rose doesn't exactly stand up to the bullying she doesn't stand by in the same was as everyone else does either. In Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend we learn more about Regina and her life--things that make her treatment of Rose make more sense even though it doesn't justify her behavior. While Matt turned out to be the bully in this installment, I'm wondering if we'll get more of Matt's story in the future that might show how he's turned out the way that he has. Because if there's one thing I've learned, it's that there's usually something going on that we can't see that prompts the actions of others. Because we aren't always aware of those things, we're quick to judge others, but everyone is struggling in some form or other.

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend has several good messages throughout that I think many teenagers need to learn. Learning to love yourself and figuring out who you really are is a huge deal and something that I don't expect most people to figure out until even their 20s or later. Building self-esteem. What is "normal?" Positive self-talk. Doing the right thing because it's the right thing versus doing what you feel like or whether or not you're in the mood to be nice. Dealing with difficult people. What is really important--going to college or spending more time with your loved ones? Our decisions aren't always ones that people we love will agree with, but you have to make decisions that you can live with.

A couple of other things that I thought were great messages that I can't really summarize, I'll quote two instances here: "Although there are many things about desire that I haven't figured out yet, here's something I do know: it only takes a second for things to be misinterpreted and get really confusing when people are talking about touching each other." & "Or I guess maybe it's that I see her differently. It used to be when I looked at her, I was afraid." (I won't go into detail about these because this review is already too long and there's another issue I want to discuss.)

And now it's time for a rant. If you want to skip this rant, I won't be offended because I'm fairly sure I'm about to elicit a variety of opinions, but I can't be silent any longer. I've noticed a trend with YA literature over the last year. Almost every book I've read over the last year has at least one gay character. At the same time 9 out of 10 of those books have a subplot that includes said gay character being bullied. I feel like this topic is so overdone that it has become completely cliche. mean your gay character gets pushed around, bullied, and made fun of? SURPRISE. I would have never imagined that. While I understand that gay rights and bullying are both extremely popular and hot topics lately, I feel like this has become such a prevalent subplot in YA literature that it is completely overdone. I'm utterly sick and tired of this topic.

I hesitate to even mention this because I immediately think that I'm "asking for" arguments over this topic on the blog. Truthfully, I'd prefer not to bring this up at all, but YA literature has become so inundated with this topic, I feel like it can't be ignored. Perhaps the reason why I can't ignore it in Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend is because of what is said within the book itself.

"Not that being gay is a choice," she quickly adds, repeating what our health teacher from last year, Ms. Maso, drilled into us, even though she probably could have gotten fired for stating as fact what some people think is just a belief about homosexuality. As far as we can tell, Ms. Maso's the only teach at Union High who is actually interested in giving kids useful--aka truthful--information.

As a Christian, of course this is not the stance that I personally take, and I resent this information being treated as fact by the author. The book also states:

"Do you want to be the coward who is so afraid of people who are not like him, who is so narrow-minded and small, that he attacks out of fear?"

No...I don't want to be the coward who is afraid to speak out against what I disagree with just because what I believe is no longer popular. But because I believe what isn't popular, does that make me narrow-minded and small? And who have I attacked out of fear? Maybe I'm taking this particular passage too personally, but I don't know how else to take it.

And later the principal tells Rose, "Not to diminish your experience, but what's happening with Conrad is harassment on a whole other scale."

This statement bothers me as well. Why is what Conrad's experiencing any different from what Rose experienced last year? Rose was bullied and was generally scared--not necessarily for her life. But she was scared of Regina. Scared of going to school and getting hurt. I quote her saying this exact thing above. I don't understand why Conrad's form of harassment is any different than what Rose experienced. Both are unacceptable.

"Making things better requires risk," she says."Sometimes the moral imperative to speak up outweighs personal need. ...Whether you like it or not, you do what's right, even when it's hard..."

Should Conrad be bullied because he's gay? No. Should Rose be bullied because a guy she likes no longer wants to be with his ex-girlfriend? No. But that still doesn't change the fact that this subject is repeated so frequently in the YA genre that if I never read about it again, it would be too soon. End rant.

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend gets 3 Stars. Have you read Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend? What did you think?

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