Wednesday, 19 October 2011

review: Love is a Four-Letter Word

by Vikki VanSickle
Scholastic, September 2011
contemporary middle-grade
received from publisher (thank you!)

Love is in the air, at least for everyone Clarissa knows. Her mother spends all her time with Doug, her personal trainer, and her friend Mattie is collecting new boys to crush on like candy. Then there's Michael Greenblat, who might be interested in Clarissa in a more-than-friends way. With her best friend Benji always busy with theatre, Clarissa will have to figure out how the factor of like and love will shift all aspects of her life.
The cover:

I actually didn't dig the previous novel's cover, but putting these two together, they look a lovely ensemble. This does kind of remind me of a YA cover, This Girl Is Different by J J Johnson. Good thing the colour and typography schemes are unique enough to differentiate.

The book.

Oh, MG. <3 I'm pretty sure the highest compliment I can give a middle-grade novel is that it made me want to relive middle school over again, and Love is a Four-Letter Word did. The birthday party at an Asian restaurant, the auditioning for the local theatre, even the cluelessness with which Mattie picked her crushes all are middle school incarnate.

Then there's Clarissa, who's retained her delightful sass and sense of righteousness to make for dozens of hilarious situations that spur the storyline forward almost effortlessly. The encounters involving her and her mother's new boyfriend, the jealousy she feels towards Benji getting into the play without her and the confusion around her relationship with Michael are all so real and down-to-earth that you can't help but say, "This IS how it is."

Though the plot does coast along at a fairly snappy pace, it isn't anything spectacularly original. In the end, Love is a Four-Letter Word is a novel that relates just how a fourteen-year-old girl in the middle of the biggest transition of her life feels.

Rating: 3.9 out of 5