Adrienne Haus isn't looking forward to summer. She messed up her knee, which means that:
A) she can't go on the Canadian Wilderness Adventure that she and her best friend have been planning on for months,
B) her best friend will be gone all summer on said CWA,
C) her knee is in a huge brace, which is hot and smelly and makes moving around a pain, and
D) her mother is forcing her to take part in a mother-daughter book club with three girls she doesn't know or have anything in common with—a car thief, an over-achiever, and a young genius—other than that they're all taking AP English in the fall.
Things are not looking up.
You know how there's a trend of YA characters reading and discussing classic literature? Well, for sheer number of books included, this one blows them all out of the water. Actually, points are awarded for the diversity of the books read as well: NO AUSTEN! Can you imagine? No Brontë, either. They read The Yellow Wallpaper, Frankenstein, The Left Hand of Darkness, The House on Mango Street, and The Awakening. All quintessential summer reading list books, but none that have been Done to Death in YA**.
Yes, it sounds suspiciously like The Breakfast Club. Yes, they do do some bonding. Assumptions are made based on appearances, and those assumptions are proved wrong. (It's rather fitting that they spend so much time by the pool. You can see to the bottom, so you think you know everything about it, but that's never really true, is it?*) But the tone is very different, and while in The Breakfast Club, the characters Get It All Out There and by the end, There Are No Mysteries, this book does not answer all questions raised.
Re: Questions Not Answered. I generally like that, if it makes sense within the framework/storyline, and it does here. The only way that Adrienne will get the answers she's looking for will be is if
A) she's willing to ask, and
B) the askee is willing to answer
Some of her questions do get asked and answered, others don't. On one hand, in that regard, it's the most realistic book I've read in a while. On the other, it definitely feels like a Literary Fiction Book on a Summer Reading List. Not because of any literary pyrotechnics—Adrienne's voice is very straight-forward and frank—but because of the plotline and again, the feel. When you read it, you'll see what I mean: even when there's action, it feels drowsy and slow, there's often more going on behind people's actions and words than there is on the surface, and it's rife with potential for discussion and/or essay questions. I liked it—found it completely engrossing, even—but it's not going to be for everyone.
*Actually, I think I'm reaching there. But as each chapter begins with the definition of a different literary term—like foreshadowing or conflict or, yes, symbolism—I seem to have reverted to some serious high school-era bullshitting. My apologies. Hopefully it'll wear off soon.
*Yet. We'll see what happens with Frankenstein.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.