Wednesday, 13 April 2011

review: Back When You Were Easier To Love

by Emily Wing Smith
Dutton Juvenile, April 28, 2011
contemporary young adult
ARC received from publisher (thank you!)

In small-town Haven, UT, Joy's only distraction is -- was -- boyfriend Zan. He, with his old-man shoes and non-conforming religion, made Joy feel alive, made her into Joy 2.0. So when Zan drops everything and heads back to California, Joy can't get him off her brain. She rounds up Noah, Zan's former best friend who would be cute if he weren't so irritating, and gets him to drive down with her to some Cali universities in an attempt to find Zan. She just needs closure. Who knows? Maybe he'll remember why he loved her in the first place... maybe.
The cover:

These kinds of kissing covers where the actual kissing is hidden are driving me crazy -- they're so unsubtle I want to punch a hole through them. The drawn, cartoony-cute feel is also at complete odds with the story's moody and meditative atmosphere. This cover gets a honking F.

The book:

While the reader is prepared for flashbacks from the back blurb, the number of them accompanied by the shortness of the chapters is simply migraine-inducing. Fortunately, we move out of flashback territory by the second half. By then, Joy herself has somewhat cleaned up her act as well; in the beginning, she's a moping, whining girl who misses her boyfriend beyond believable sanity. When she makes her decision to road-trip down to California and attempt to find Zan, the clingy stalker-ish characteristics remain, but at least her actions become assertive.

The religion aspect to the small town life is what really bring Haven into focus. However, being in Joy's head, our vision of the town is skewed (everything is attached to some kind of Zan-memory), which is appropriate for a grieving girl. It's not exactly appropriate for 100 pages, though. The eventual blossoming between Joy and Noah seems obvious from the get-go -- the blurb says "...charming...irritating", which simply means once Joy gets to know how great Noah is, she's going to fall.

Oh, and Zan is mean. Plain mean. Too bad Joy can't even tell.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5