Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Promise of Amazing

I read The Promise of Amazing quite a while ago, and I'm trying to catch up on my reviews...   Somewhere I read a perhaps over-enthusiastic review of this book which caused me to actually purchase it (a somewhat rare occurrence for me as I usually get books straight from the publisher these days or else the library where I work.)  It's written by Robin Constantine and it's a YA book about a perennial  "good girl" who does what's expected of her and stays out of trouble.  She meets a boy who used to be a star but has made a few screw-ups and is getting a reputation for a "bad boy".  Grayson's a bit of an incongruous character who wears an elbow-patch blazer and has, unbelievably, an eyebrow piercing.  It's his very bad boy charm that Wren (good names, right?) is attracted to, having been pigeon-holed as a middle-of-the-road kid.

The characters never felt fully developed to me, leaning, instead on the sort of stereotypical tropes from John Hugh's movies of which Constantine is clearly a fan.  There are multiple references to Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club (not that there's anything wrong with that - I weep for a generation not weened on 80s movies - I mean, have kids today even seen Say Anything?)  However, there's a bit of a tidiness that rings untrue - Grayson, for example, has done something illegal for which he is eventually caught, however, due to some savvy moves by his dad he basically gets off scot-free.  This freedom from consequence is annoying in a YA novel.... but, I don't know.... they don't all have to be didactic, I'm just saying - in a book about two middle-class white kids, confronting their white privilege might have brought a bit more depth to the story.

Where Constantine does confront a social issue is in the tackling of Grayson and Wren's sexual pasts.  In a chapter written from Grayson's perspective, she writes, "I'd left Wren and her chai latte downstairs, making up some excuse about wanting to get my iPod so she could hear my favorite song from the latest Coldplay album.  In reality I was picking up in my room and figuring out how I could get her to come upstairs, since I pretty much wanted to devour her whole."  
What I did like was how Constantine frees the characters from their sexual "baggage" instead offering a vision of a more sexually empowered teen that's able to experiment and move on.  One of Wren's girlfriends says, "What I'm getting at is - so what if he's been with other girls? It only means he's experienced. You've been with other guys - is he all jacked up over that? We're sixteen... this is how it's supposed to be."  Ultimately this YA novel wasn't really what this adult reader was looking for but I suppose it did have some promising aspects.

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