Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader.
When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she’s excited to finally let her stories shine. But when she goes to her first workshop, the words are just…gone. Fortunately, Caroline has a solution: Tessa just needs to find some inspiration in a real-life love story of her own. And she’s ready with a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. Nico, the brooding artist who looks like he walked out of one of Tessa’s stories, is cast as the perfect Prince Charming.
But as Tessa checks off each item off Caroline’s list, she gets further and further away from herself. She risks losing everything she cares about—including the surprising bond she develops with sweet Sam, who lives across the street. She’s well on her way to having her own real-life love story, but is it the one she wants, after all?
So, I simultaneously liked and disliked this book. I’m not really sure how that’s possible, though maybe it was because of the side characters that I even kept on reading this book. As well as the main character, Tessa, being a writer. I’m a sucker for protagonists who are writers as I love writing myself, so I definitely related to her struggle when the words stopped.
Let’s start with what I didn’t like, only because I want to get it out of the way. My main problem was Tessa, honestly, as she was just kind of… not smart, in this book. Not intelligence or social-wise, but when it came to her crush(es) and how she handled her best friend’s plan to get her writing mojo back… not so much. Obviously, she fell for Nico, a popular guy at her new school, because why wouldn’t she? But once she found out the dude had a girlfriend, she never should have continued to pursue him, and said best friend, Caroline, is at fault as well for encouraging Tessa to do so. Tessa was also self-absorbed, which is confronted at one point, but it led her to play victim at times and not face her issues head-on.
I also have to make a mention of this, because I said to one of my book groups that I would, which is the not one, but two times the characters make a statement of their parents like an ancient boy band from the nineties (referring to the Backstreet Boys). Excuse me, but the nineties weren’t that long ago. I know it feels like it, and teenagers today are dramatic like that, but most of the 90s kids are still in their twenties… not that much older than a sixteen or seventeen-year-old. Just, really?
Anyway, the good stuff. I loved Tessa’s brother Miles, and the fact that he’s her older, disabled brother, therefore acting more like her younger brother. His character is the main deciding issue of Tessa’s dilemma between the two boys she likes, because one of them treats Miles like he has a disease and the other treats him like a human being. Most of the other side characters were great as well, especially Sam, Lenore, and Theodore.
As I mentioned before, I did enjoy the fact that Tessa was a writer and how her best friend was the only one to see her work. It reminded me of, well, me in high school because it was the same thing. I only shared my writing with my best friend. I also related to her struggle when the words just stopped because I get to that point multiple times a year, and it sucks, but writers get through it. It was interesting to see what exactly led Tessa to find her words again.
I can’t say I loved this book, despite loving the beginning and the last few chapters the most. I probably have more issues with it than not, but I guess I can appreciate that the main character was flawed. Even though that really doesn’t excuse going after another girl’s boyfriend.
In any case, I wouldn’t recommend nor tell anyone to not read this book. Just because I have mixed feelings about it doesn’t mean someone else won’t love it.
Rating: 2.5/5 stars