Hey, all, it’s Alexa, and I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for wonderful new YA, A Messy Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan.
Publication Date: October 2, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Life is funny sometimes.
And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer.
I’m trying to be strong for my friends and my mom.
And I’m trying so hard to be “just friends” with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won’t do that to him. He’s been through this before with his family, and I’m not going to let him watch me die.
So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don’t cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.
The start of the story was a little rough in my opinion, but the novel really got going once the word “tumor” came into play. The classic teen contemporary fell away and the true novel slingshot into motion; the deeper story blossomed and the characters slowly captivated me. I experienced all the things with them: the rawness, the terror, the hope, the “carpe diem” the heck out of today since they had no idea what the next day was gonna look like, and the agonizing ups and downs as Ellie and the gang tried to figure out how to deal with the big “C.” Truly, the title describes this perfectly: messy and beautiful, these characters showed me something good, something real, something heartbreaking, and something inspiring, and I was 100% in love by the time I finished it. <3
Plot: 3 1/2 stars out of 5
These kids. These kids, though.
This section might get long. Haha.
Ellie is so incredibly strong. And it’s not because she isn’t afraid and she faces cancer stoically and she never gets upset and she never breaks down; in fact, there are moments when she just snaps and sobs because she’s—quite justifiably—paralyzed with fear over it all. No, her strength came from the way she dealt with everything after that. I loved how real her emotions felt, and how she maintained a clear and deep appreciation for all the good things she had in spite of the awful things piling on her. It wasn’t one of those stories she sank into depression, thought there was nothing left to live for, and her boy had to pull her out of it (those have their place, but this story wasn’t it). Instead, from the get-go, she wanted to survive. Her friends immediately gathered around her, and even though she was drenched in fear, she immediately and repeatedly realized and acknowledged the blessings that were still around her. What made her strong was her attitude, her decisions to do life anyway, her support of her friends in their doing life, and her consistent return to gratitude and an a “carpe diem” kind of joy. As many times as she was gripped with fear, she balanced that refusing to let cancer become her entire worldview. She didn’t let the imminence of her treatment or the possibility of death keep her from appreciating her life; and I just found that really original, really inspiring, and really beautiful.
As far as the other characters, her friends were talented, thoughtful, and amazingly supportive. Jason was super cute, super mature, and super perfect for that time in her life. I loved that there were no stupid fights, that any arguments that did arise were discussions they needed to have, and that her friends didn’t leave her to flounder, but instead rallied together and stood beside and behind her. She had a fantastic support group, which made for a fantastic cast of characters that I took pleasure in spending time with.
Of particular note, there was her mom and CRAIG. If you’ve been here for a while, you know I love to brag on awesome parent characters, and Ellie’s mom definitely fits the bill. She was present, caring, understanding, her daughter’s close friend and support. There was no crazy miscommunication here: her daughter was her everything and you could tell. A relationship like that is so hard to find in YA, but they had one that was about as close to perfect as one could get.
And then there was Craig. If you’ve been here for a while, you know I also like to brag on awesome sibling characters! And Craig is one of the awesomest: a normal boy, you know, acting mildly tougher than he was most of the time, but he was also a total sweetheart, incredibly supportive, and honestly, just what she needed whenever she needed him. He was the kind of brother who pushed her to kick cancer’s you-know-what, and his constant, rock-like thereness was always around to help hold her up, even when she didn’t realize she needed him.
I gotta stop because this section is going on way too long, but for my TL;DR people: Ellie’s the strongest, her mom is the bestest, and Craig is the bossest.
Characters: 5 stars out of 5.
Ellie’s thought process and style comes through quite well, and I thought it was really interesting how much of the story revolved around stage and performance. It added an extra dynamic to the normal “school, hangout, and home” settings one tends to have in contemporaries and it was the perfect bit of extra spice to balance out this book.
Writing Style/Setting: 4 stars out of 5
And so we come in right about 4 stars or of 5. A Messy Beautiful Life is the perfect title for this story! Lovers of sweet teen contemporary, here is your next fix. Hope you enjoyed my post, and don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sara Jade Alan wrote her first comedy sketch during second grade recess, then cast it, directed it, and made costumes out of garbage bags. Since then, she has performed in over a thousand improvised and scripted shows all over the country. When she lived in New York City with her college improv group, she worked as an assistant to a best-selling author of young adult novels featuring strong female heroes and was completely inspired by her books and the awesomeness of her teen fans. Spending a year on crutches, Sara turned to writing her own young adult stories and was hooked. Currently, she is one-half of the comedy duo, The Novelistas, who perform about writing and teach performance to writers. Hailing from a suburb of Chicago, Sara now lives in Colorado with her husband—who she met in that college improv group—and daughter, who they waited a bunch of years to make. She is a member of and guest instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop.
~ Love, Alexa ❤
Notes: I voluntarily and honestly reviewed a free ecopy of this book
Content: teenage kissing/romance, etc. mild language.