The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Summary: Andie had her whole summer figured out, she has a perfect internships away from home and can't be more excited. Then, a political scandal unfolds that not only makes her father a permanent fixture in their home again, but sends all of Andie's plans out the window. She faces the challenge head on and the places her summer takes her help her find a better version of herself.
Most Appropriate For: Middle school and up.
Sensitivities: Brief mentions of sex and teenage girls navigating their sexuality, but nothing to be concerned about. I am completely comfortable giving this book to my 6th graders, knowing they are wondering about these things anyway and this book deals with them in a healthy and honest way.
Enjoyability: 4 of 5 stars
I received an ARC of this book from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
I only have one complaint about this book and it isn't directly Matson's fault, so I'm going to start with that and get it out of the way: In high school, I became obsessed with Sarah Dessen to the point that I have read every book that she has ever published. Once her trifecta was published (in my opinion, This Lullaby, The Truth About Forever, Just Listen) she fell into a pattern of using the same plot line for every single book. Girl falls for boy despite some sort of personal issue, girl sabotages the relationship in some way, girl wins boy back and they end up together happily.
This book follows that plot line and my over-familiarity with it made it difficult for anything to be all that surprising for me. But the thing is, it makes sense for Andie and Clark. So my having a problem with this plot line wasn't anything to do with Matson and was very much a demise of my own making. And that aside, I loved this book for so many reasons.
1. Dogs. There are dogs. I know that I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with dogs, but the constant presence of Birdie was an added bonus for me.
2. Clark won't put up with Andie's crap. There are a lot of ways that someone can be different enough to make us want to take a risk on them, but I really enjoy that the way he ended up breaking through her barriers was by not letting her get away with her normal half-assed way of dating.
3. THE FRIENDSHIPS. As much as this book is about Andie's relationship wth Clark, it is also about her learning what it truly means to be a good friend and realizing that some hurts can't be fixed with an apology and forgetting like it never happened. This especially struck home for me as I considered my group of friends from high school and some of the terrible things that we did to each other, and I can't help but wonder if some of that determined whether or not the friendships stuck past the convenience of them.
4. Andie's father. The trouble he runs into with his jobs allows them to confront the issues they've been dealing with since her mother's death and begin to rekindle their relationship. This was one of highest points of the story. Although their relationship didn't start out being a strong one, the work they put in helped get it there and I found the strong parent relationship refreshing as it isn't something I see a lot in YA.
5. And the icing on the cake is the storyline with the writer and how that plays in to the development of relationships and friendships as the story grows.
Overall, this is one of the best contemporaries I've read in a long time and is one my students are going to love too. I can't wait to get this into their hands and to get a finished copy for myself.
Teachability: This is not really the type of book that you would overtly teach with, but it is the kind of book that I would offer to students as an option of Independent Reading workshop or small "book clubs" in the room that would allow students to discuss and would open avenues for discussions about healthy relationships, both in the realm of dating and of friendships.
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