Tuesday 23 July 2013

Review: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Publication date: July 23rd, 2013
Publisher: Egmont USA
Stars: 3/5
Source: NetGalley
A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.

Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin's summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents' divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog-- and Emmy definitely doesn't. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.

A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.


It was the sunny yellow cover that made me request A Really Awesome Mess on NetGalley. It was the wacky characters thrown into a reform school of sorts, Heartland Academy (later jokingly rechristened Assland) that ultimately made me warm up to the book.

I started reading the book nearly a month ago during a 9AM-5PM power cut and finished it on the same day. Yet, somehow, I kept putting off reviewing it... very unlike times when I'm absolutely brimming with things to say about a book that I have to review it immediately. I guess this was partly because while A Really Awesome Mess wasn't unremarkable or terrible, it wasn't very memorable either. It was one of those books that was just okay. 

I liked the protagonist, Emmy, well enough. She was struggling with a lot of issues that might have stayed buried if it weren't for her backlash to an incident in her school that got her suspended. It lands her in Heartland Academy, where she meets the kids in her Anger Management therapy group; most of whom are as much in denial about why they were sent to Heartland. There's Justin, still coming to terms with his parent's divorce and caught in a compromising position by his father, "psycho" Diana, pig-loving Jenny who refuses to speak, a compulsive liar and others who band together with a goal to make their stay in Heartland as far from resembling hell as possible.

In the course of the book, there's moments of hilarity, surprising intensity complete with occasional pangs and flutters. The characters were diverse as far as personalities and backgrounds go and the bonds forged felt unpretentious; which I think is what I appreciated most about the book. The therapeutic process was realistic and even gut wrenching with insights that did not feel cliched or formulaic. There is a rather unrealistic pig subplot thrown in which a lot of readers felt was too much... but since I was in the mood to suspend disbelief, I enjoyed it! It was cute, a little over the top and yet was pretty essential to tie some of the loose plot-ends together.

All in all, A Really Awesome Mess was pretty darn awesome. I would compare it to a part-entertaining and part-insightful TV Movie that would go great with a bowl of butter popcorn and unfinished homework! I'd watch parts of it if it came on TV again but wouldn't really go out of my way to purchase it. Definitely a borrow-not-buy, this one.

Rating: ★★★☆☆


  1. I think I will give it a pass. But great review.

  2. I totally understand the difficulty in writing a review for a "just okay" book. It's hard to muster up the enthusiasm. Great review, Pooja. Hopefully the next book will be a "wow" book. :)

  3. I've seen mixed things about this book but I'm glad you liked it overall! "Unrealistic pig subplot" isn't something you hear very often. Great review!


HI. Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment. :)