Author: Melissa Jensen
Genre: Contemporary YA
Published on: February 16, 2012
Challenge: Completely Contemporary Challenge
Source: ARC from the author
Summary: Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that’s just fine by her. She’s got her friends – the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She’s got her art – and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it’s hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they’re dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?
THE FINE ART OF TRUTH OR DARE by Melissa Jensen is a CRAZY cute contemporary, friends, that fills what I think is a really important role on my bookshelves: that of a breezy, light, fun but heartfelt story about two crazy kids overcoming obstacles to be together, while all along being swoony and sweet and conflicted about their feelings. It’s an ace formula, guys, and when it’s done well it’s like eating a really pretty, delicious, sweet cupcake: a perfect little serving of delightfulness. Nothing wrong with indulging the sweet tooth, guys.
There’s lots to enjoy in this book, guys, and you can start with Ella. She’s funny, smart, creative, and insecure. See, she has this bad scarring down one side of her body from a burn, and over the years that scarring has turned her into a sweet, kind of quiet, but no less awesome teenage girl with two loyal, AMAZING, hilarious bffs, Sadie and Frankie. Also, I enjoyed reading about Ella’s big, loud Italian family because it was like the reading equivalent of looking into a mirror. I always get a kick out of that. But Ella is a great character to lead THE FINE ART OF TRUTH OR DARE by Melissa Jensen, and I was rooting for her from the beginning. She just charmed me with her self-consciousness and kind of weird obsession with the 19th-century painter, Edward Willing (who, as far as I can tell, isn’t real? Correct me if I’m wrong, my dears).
In fact, all of the characters were adorable and fun and funny and endearing. Sadie and Frankie were EXCELLENT best friends and I adored them. I loved the way the three of them interacted, so comfortable and open. The friendship between Ella and Frankie had some bumps, though, and I appreciated the conflict. Everything with Sadie and Frankie was GOOD STUFF.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about Alex. Our boy isn’t necessarily what you think he’ll be. He might seem like he’s going to be that typical rich high school popular tool, but he’s really not. He’s a *GASP* NICE GUY. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not perfect. But oh man. He’s unaffected and sweet and he says these heart-melting things to Ella that she only occasionally believes, so intense is her insecurity sometimes. I was a big fan of him, though, and their relationship was cute and fun and, you know, fraught in the way that teenage romances are sometimes.
You know what I really get a kick out of though? I love that the title is the teensiest bit misleading. For sure, there is art here, and it’s a big element of the story. Characters are particularly excellent at drawing, Ella is indeed working diligently on her paper on Edward Willing, whose own life and relationships are reflected in the things going on with Ella. There’s talk about comics and paintings and archives. But I say that the fine art mentioned in the title is less present than I thought it would be because the characters and their relationships stand out so much that the art is just a really well-developed, pleasant foundation. Ella and Alex and Frankie and Sadie shine over that, which is THE BOMB.
One of my only gripes about THE FINE ART OF TRUTH OR DARE by Melissa Jensen and has to do with Frankie. There’s this indication on more than one occasion that Frankie has suffered lots of homophobic bullying and terrible things at the hands of Alex’s friends, and that Alex himself, while not actively participating in the nastiness, was there and did nothing to stop his friends’ mistreatment of Frankie. It bothered me that this never came up with Alex and Ella, especially because Sadie and Frankie were like her friend-soul mates. They were so close and loving with each other, and SO loyal. It seemed exactly like the kind of issue that would have bothered Ella more. In fact, she’s the one who brings it up in the first place. She seemed like the kind of girl and the kind of friend who would have spoken up about it so I was disappointed that she didn’t.
Also, the mean girls were just there, it seemed, to be mean. Amanda, the head meanie, was particularly nasty with no real redeeming qualities. She was a little flat that way. Thankfully, she’s not really present very often, so we don’t encounter her bitchiness frequently.
I read somewhere that this book was being marketed as Pretty in Pink-ish, which I didn’t notice until AFTER I finished. So it was funny, then, that as I was reading THE FINE ART OF TRUTH OR DARE by Melissa Jensen, I thought more than once of those AWESOME John Hughes movies. This book just has that same funny, sincere, awkward, meaningful vibe. It’s feel-good, friends, and a sweet pick-me-up.