Overall Rating: 5 Stars
Title: By the Book
Author: Amanda Sellet
Format: eARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest reviewSynopsis:
As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women. So when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs.
Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair. As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.
A personal anecdote for you that, I swear, relates to this book: I work with a lot of ivy league graduates of the scholarly nature and our main character, Mary’s parents are so painfully, triggeringly, pin-point-perfectly depictive of those types of people.
I truly wondered if I would make it through this book with all the eye-twitching I had going on any time her parents spoke.
Mary’s parents have the uncanny ability to overcomplicate when communicating and they are in need of constant validation and awe with their usage of SAT words in normal conversation.
Honestly, that goes for everyone in Mary’s family. Including our narrator. I tolerated it because her voice makes total sense given her upbringing and obsession with classic novels.
The narrator honest-to-goodness threw in the word “erstwhile.” As soon as I read that, my eye started twitching because I have a vivid experience at work in which my boss’s boss tried to come at us with an email communication to the community using that word, and we (in the marketing/communications department) immediately vetoed it.
As I hit the 50% mark, I began to find Mary charming, funny, and observant, which made for a great reading experience and I fell more and more in love with her big, quirky family. Yes, even her parents whose arms must hurt from all the self back-patting.
I grew up in a big family (3 siblings, lots of cousins) and seeing it depicted in books and movies always warms my heart – especially when done well. It’s why I tear up watching Little Women and why I adored To All the Boys I Loved Before. This was no different.
I say the following with both praise and warning:
The writing style is very nobody-talks-like-that-but-we-love-to-see-it Dawson’s Creek meets SAT prep with a lot of Gilmore Girls, but with classic literature references instead of pop culture references. There is even a glossary of literature references made at the end of the book.
You know how there is a Rory Gilmore reading challenge? I totally could see a Mary Porter-Malcom reading challenge stemming from this book.
All that being said, I think this book is very self-aware. I believe (and hope) that it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, in which case, it is done incredibly well.
And now, I shall gush, because it’s what I do best:
I loved seeing how Mary’s world clashed with contemporary high school – how she interpreted everyday high school drama and how everyday high schoolers interpreted her.
The friend group in this was so, so refreshing. All three girls have such vivid personalities with little focus on looks, which I so appreciated. I seriously WISH I had friends like those in high school. I’m many, MANY years out of high school and I even wanted to hang out with them.
And who would I be if I didn’t talk about the romance in this book?
YA romances can be pretty predictable, but I’m going to be honest, this one wasn’t nearly as predictable as most YA novels I read. There were SO many sweet, swoony moments. The type of tiny moments that are significant simply because of the build-up.
The inclusion of Mary’s diary entries were not extra fluff. They directed the story in significant, but subtle ways. They weren’t boringly long, they were short and sweet, but packed a punch.
When I closed this book (figuratively speaking because I read the eARC for this), I felt exactly how I hope to feel every time I open one… a little giddy, a little nostalgic, and a lot satisfied.
Butterfly Rating: 4 Stars
Re-read Worthiness: Maybe
Bookshelf Placement: Yes
I love the cover!
Book Boyfriend Rating: 5 stars