The Story of Us by Deb Caletti
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target Audience: Young adult
Keywords: First love, remarriages, breakups
Format read: Paperback from ALA (thanks!)
Summary: Cricket is on a break from her longtime boyfriend, just as everything in her life is changing. Her mom is set to remarry, and they are heading to spend some time with their new family before the nuptials. Cricket takes the time away to examine her relationship and figure out what she really wants for her future.
Estelle: Here we are for another book report… this time featuring Deb Caletti’s The Story of Us, a contemporary young adult novel that hit shelves on April 24th — which sort of feels like Christmas Day in young adult publishing because EVERYTHING was released that day!
Magan: NO JOKE! I don’t think I’ve seen a release date as popular. All of us bookies probably went broke on April 24th…and right after the tax deadline, too. Hmm…
E: It’s a conspiracy! (Just kidding.) Okay, so let’s talk about The Story of Us, which looks like a deliciously romantic book from the cover art. Don’t you think? It made me want to go walk on a beach at sunset!
M: Oh yeah, I wanted to hug that cover. It elicits everything I had been wanting, in real life and a book: warmer weather, a beach, Zac Efron (kidding… that’s not on the cover, obviously), and a little romance.
E: The big question is… did we get all of that once we read the novel? The Story of Us sort of reminded me of Sarah Dessen’s Lullaby a bit because it was centered around a parent getting remarried after some disastrous relationships. Here, we have Cricket, who has recently gotten out of a long-term relationship, traveling to spend a week with her future step-family and end it all (hopefully) with a wedding.
M: I haven’t read that Sarah Dessen book, and in fact, this was my first Deb Caletti book. I liked that the issues seemed to be something teenagers could relate to. Sadly, divorce happens and families are split. What was interesting was seeing how these two families with older teenagers would blend together. That week was almost like a test.
E: Yes! A test for the dogs too! This was also my first Deb Caletti book. I liked the premise of the book and the mystery surrounding just WHY Cricket and her boyfriend, Janssen, broke up.
M: Oh, yeah. I liked the mystery, too, but I have to say my biggest complaint about this book is how long we were left wondering and guessing. I got anxious to know what happened because… I guess because I wanted to understand the decisions she was making as a result of what happened with Janssen.
E: That’s the thing. Caletti has some beautiful images and language in this book. Just as gorgeous and tangible as the cover, but when it came to cracking down on Cricket and what exactly happened between her and J, it just got to be too much. I think the book could have definitely been edited down almost 100 pages. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t completely into it. It took awhile. Probably 200 pages before I was in the “I cannot put this down” mode. But not everyone has patience to go 200 pages without anything really happening. And that’s another thing. The book focused on her relationship with J when really it was everything happening with her family that was bubbling into the real story, ya know?
M: Yes! I understand that SO much. J isn’t present in the book except via her flashbacks and the letters she writes to him. I wanted to understand him and how he was feeling. (Man, that’s such a girl thing to say.) I wish some of the extra family things had been stripped out and that maybe we were able to see the letters he actually wrote TO Cricket. Not just her responses.
E: That is a genius idea. I kept thinking about the structure of this book, which is basically we see the wedding craziness through Cricket’s eyes and learn about the backstory of her family and relationship with Cricket through her letters to J, which is a creative way to do it, for sure. But Cricket’s voice changes a lot in those emails to J and I’m not sure who she really is especially once we see her actions and thoughts during wedding week. J is always kind of a shadow to me… sort of ghostly because we never get the deeper side of him. (Even though from what we know he seems like a winner.)
M: That left me so confused. If he was such an awesome guy, then why all the drama? Cricket definitely seemed like a completely different person in her thoughts (and via her actions) than she did in her letters back to J. Especially once the BIG secret was revealed, I really didn’t understand how her actions and responses all meshed together. Maybe I just wouldn’t have responded like that.
E: I’m not exactly one to beat around the bush about anything so it was difficult (and a tad frustrating) for me to watch her spell everything out. If she had to go through this much to decide if she wanted to be with him or not, maybe she was looking too hard for an answer. Especially when Ash pops into the picture. She’s clearly attracted to him, and all I kept thinking was… hey hun, maybe you’ve been tied down for too long at too young of an age and need to see what’s out there. There’s no harm in that. But Cricket was deathly afraid of change and making decisions. And she even knew that about herself. It was a rough time… she graduated high school (yay for an older YA), her mom was getting a whole new family, and she was sort of lost. I think those feelings were very relatable.
M: Add to that the feelings of not being sure where her relationship with J were headed and not being able to make a decision about where to go to college. That IS a lot to handle. I always understood that she had a lot on her plate, but what was frustrating was her fear of not wanting to turn into her mother. I think at the root of everything, she was afraid she’d run away from guys like her mom did. Except, I didn’t get it! Janssen was a GREAT GUY. Her mom always dated d-bags. Yet, Cricket was still running.
E: One character I really loved was her dog, Jupiter. I just adored that little guy and animals never really make that much of an impact in books. But dogs and their relationships to their “owners” was very important in this book and while at times, it was a little too much, I did enjoy the parallels you could draw between dogs and how they perceive things and then the human side of all of that.
M: I’m definitely a huge dog person, but at times, despite my love for Jupiter, I just wanted to say.. get to the point. I understand. I love metaphors, but I had had enough. I needed answers.
E: Okay how about her relationship with her brother? I liked him a lot.
M: All the family things were great. I loved their closeness and the grandparents kept me cracking up, but I guess my question to you is this: what was this book about – learning about the family or learning about Janssen and Cricket? I just expected a lot of their story (ahem, the title of the book!).
E: I think that’s a strong argument. I expected one thing and sort of came out with something else entirely. Maybe Cricket did too? I just think if the point of the letters was to REMIND Janssen the many details of their time together… could that have been expressed in a better way structurally? Would we have felt the author got to the point faster?
M: I honestly would have liked to have seen both of their letters with the goings on of the wedding and life in the beach house making guest appearances. Instead, I feel like their relationship and her working through things felt more like the secondary plotline.
E: So how would you rate this book?
M: It’s most definitely a borrow kind of book for me, and hopefully we’re making it clear that working through all the decisions is a slow process. I feel like Caletti was intentional in making us dislike Cricket’s indecisiveness. Readers should be prepared for a slower read when they pick this one up. What about you, E?
E: I would agree. I think it’s a borrow book. I could see myself taking this one on vacation and reading it gradually over a few days. There are definitely some entertaining moments, and some filled with crazy chemistry, but in the end, I didn’t feel fulfilled.
M: Oh, I like the way you said that. Unfulfilled. Perfect way to describe this book in a word. Any last comments?
E: I’m most curious to see what fans of Caletti’s work think of this book and which other of her work they could suggest to us?
M: Awesome, I wanna know, too. So, readers, tell us what your favorite Deb Caletti book is! Also let us know if you’ve read this one. Do you agree with us?