Flat-Out Love

Flat-Out LoveFlat-Out Love by Jessica Park
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever...

-got a crush on a penfriend you never or barely met?
-pined a whole year - or more - for your summer crush?
-fallen in love with the idea of someone, idolizing him/her and thus making him/her perfect?

In other words:

Have you ever fallen in love with LOVE?

If you've recognized yourself in any of these questions, then this is the book for you.

Julie is from Ohio but she's starting college in Boston. When she arrives to find the apartment she thought she rented to be a total scam, her last resource is to call her mother's long lost college friend, Erin, to help her out and give her a temporary roof while she looks for a solution.
This is how Julie meets the Watkins family: Erin and Roger, the academic and self-involved parents, Finn, the fascinating older brother on a backpacking tour around the world, Matt, the middle brother, a math and physics nerd with a fetish for smartass T-shirts and Celeste, the 13 year old quirky sister of the family.
The Watkinses seem to be a regular enough family on the surface but Julie soon realizes that all is not well with these people's familial dynamics. What irks her the most is that she can't point her finger at the exact cause: everything seems to rotate around Celeste but there's just something that they are not telling her and that she is determined to find out...

This book would have normally received 4 stars from me.
If you're wondering to which genre it belongs, I'd categorize it as a more-adult-than-young YA college chick lit. And a very, very good one. Aside from being well written, it pushed all the right buttons for me.
It made me laugh out loud frequently, and not in a silly way but in a I-wish-I was-there-to-laugh-with-you way.
It took me back in time, wishing I could have back my late teenage years and the butterflies in the stomach feelings of my first crush(es). It really was a trip down memory lane for me.
It's got every good characterization and aside from Julie and Matt, I dare you not to be completely engrossed by Celeste and her personality.
Finally, it's got a very good plot and it's not very often that I can say that I was totally oblivious as to what would be missing piece of the jigsaw to understand the Watkins family.
I would have taken away a star, or maybe half a star, for the ending which I found excessively cheesy and slightly awkward.

That is, if this book were a regular book.
But this book is self published. Now, my - somewhat limited - experience with self published books has been disastrous to put it mildly. Bad editing bothers me a whole lot. There are already many, many published books which are badly edited, I don't really see the point in subjecting myself to books which have not undergone the scrutiny of professional eyes and been polished.
But this is NOT and I was really and very pleasantly surprised. THIS is how it's done. For me, this book is close to perfect and if only for that it deserves the final missing star.

Especially recommended for first crush nostalgics and hopeless romantics.

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