Book Review: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

26 Oct

Book cover for Flat Out Love by Jessica Park

Title: Flat-Out Love

Author: Jessica Park

Genre: Contemporary YA, New Adult

Amazon | Goodreads

Publisher: Amazon Children’s

Release date: September 11, 2012

Source: Ebook

Summary: Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it.

When Julie’s off-campus housing falls through, her mother’s old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side … and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there’s that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That’s because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie’s suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that … well … doesn’t quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m officially ON this New Adult bandwagon that’s going around, friends. First it was Tammara Webber’s EASY, and now Jessica Park’s FLAT-OUT LOVE, a really great, heart-warming, odd, swoony contemp about a young girl in her freshman year at college who winds up living with a family who have some pretty strange things going on in their house. FLAT-OUT LOVE wasn’t perfect, and occasionally Julie rubbed me the wrong way (there might be ranting in a sec), but overall I really enjoyed Jessica Park‘s book.

So I feel like lots of things that happen in FLAT-OUT LOVE are not quite things that would happen in real life, not the least of which is an old friend of one’s mother whom she has been out of touch with for YEARS opening her home to an unknown child for an entire school year on about a days’ notice. But I’m willing to go with it, friends, because it makes for a good story. And because Julie is a mostly great character, and because the weird thing about the Watkins family is…pretty effing unique. Truly, FLAT-OUT LOVE is a solid, if predictable, story of family secrets and love.

We’ll get to some of the good stuff in a minute, but first I need to get something about Julie off my chest. Don’t get me wrong: Julie is smart and snarky and a total go-getter. I love her gumption and confidence, and her relationships with Matt and Finn are not typical but fun and important to her in different ways. So what did I not like so much? She’s superficial. She spends lots of time going on and on about how other people dress and judging them based on their clothes: Erin (the mom) dresses in pencil skirts and cardigans = professional and classy. Celeste (the daughter with the Flat Finn issue) dresses in mismatched clothes = unbecoming, odd, and unfortunate. Matt dresses in geeky t-shirts = weird, exasperating, and barely tolerable. Julie sees Celeste and Matt and the way they dress–dress! of all the things going on this family, this is what she concerns herself with!–and immediately finds their taste lacking, even though neither of them seem unsatisfied. In fact, the geeky shirts seem to suit Matt and his personality, which Julie on more than one occasion professes to like and appreciate. Why does she care about their clothes? I kept wishing for someone to judge HER for her clothes and see how it felt to be needled and pushed and molded into someone else’s perception of flattering, socially acceptable clothing. *shakes fists*

Ahem. So now that all that is off my chest, we can chat about the other good stuff in FLAT-OUT LOVE. The whole Flat Finn thing was so interesting and out there and I was really fascinated by it. Celeste carries around this huge cardboard cutout of her brother, Finn, whom no one will talk to Julie about even as she reaches out to him on Facebook and connects with him. The genesis of Flat Finn wasn’t really a surprise to me–in fact, the whole Finn arc was probably the most predictable thing about FLAT-OUT LOVE. But it all lead to Julie and Matt interacting lots and all of these sweet, awkward moments between them. Julie and Matt have a nice relationship that evolves slowly. It could have been swoonier, but it was nice.

FLAT-OUT LOVE by Jessica Park also does a really great job looking at a family dealing with some major issues. Celeste is an odd young girl, but she’s totally endearing. Her issues with Flat Finn aren’t the only ones the Watkins’ are facing, and their dramas provide an emotional depth that makes things nice and juicy.

If you’re looking for a solid contemp with some New Adult vibes going on, you should check out FLAT-OUT LOVE. It wasn’t as steamy as EASY, but it was enjoyable in its own ways. Jessica Park does a really good job of creating characters and issues that are both different and relatable, and that’s always a good thing.

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6 Responses to “Book Review: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park”

  1. Chicklitgirl October 26, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    Thank you for such an honest review. You know… I sort of do the clothes judging thing too. I think its good that a character has flaws and isn’t perfect, it makes them more human, more realistic. But I see why it might get annoying.

  2. Alexa Loves Books (@alexalovesbooks) October 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    I look forward to when I’ll finally get to read this, as it sounds really good. I’m still curious about what’s going on with the family.

  3. Allison (Allure of Books) October 27, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    Yeah, I’m with you on the issues – her being superficial and the book being pretty predictable. I was very annoyed at having the plot drawn out for so long when the answers were RIGHT THERE and fairly obvious.

    Still though, I loved the book anyway! The emotions were there, the swoons were there…so it is easy to forgive the faults 🙂

  4. picturemereading October 27, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    I really enjoyed this one and found myself getting weepy at the end..I felt so sad for the family and what they had gone through. I loved Matt and I agree Julie was superficial but I think she grows up a bit as the story goes on..and realizes Matt isn’t just a geeky t-shirt.

  5. Quinn October 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    I really want to read more New Adult books. I’ve only read Love Story, which I didn’t like. But that wasn’t because it was New Adult, but the story. I want to start with Easy, which I have for Kindle, but still haven’t read. I do want to read Flat Out Love, but I think I will move it down my list, because I don’t enjoy books very much when the MC annoys me. And it sounds like the MC in Flat Out Love will get on my nerves.

    Thanks for the review!

  6. April Books & Wine October 30, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    This sounds legit, although the clothes thing would annoy the crap out of me.

    BUT I DO LOVE ME SOME SNARK.

    AND SOME COLLEGE CHARACTERS.

    Plus, aside from the rant you liked it and that’s enough for me.

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