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Estelle: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook + Brendan Halpin

Book Cover of A Really Awesome MessA Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook + Brendan Halpin
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: therapy, depression, eating disorders
Format read: eBook from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Justin and Emmy are two teens who meet at a therapy/boarding school where they are battling very different demons. What seems like a total damper on their summer soon evolves into group adventures surrounding a pig, Harry Potter, food stealing, and more.

The group that made up Justin and Emmy’s Anger Management class felt straight out of The Breakfast Club to me. The outcasts, each with their own set of problems, working through whatever got them to this reform school in the first place. Or maybe even denying themselves the chance to work through these issues is what truly bonds these unlikely friends.

Though, the center of A Really Awesome Mess is on Justin and Emmy. In alternating chapters, both tell about their experiences at the school, in classes, glancing at each other, disliking one another, and also how exactly they got roped into this position to begin with. The story felt a little slow for me at first, and it wasn’t until both character started opening up a little bit more I felt more invested in these two characters and their struggle to get better.

It’s not every day that the main character in a young adult novel is struggling with identity issues after being adopted. I really liked this aspect of A Really Awesome Mess. Emmy was unable to believe that her parents truly loved her, especially when they had their own biological daughter to care for too. On the other hand, Justin had to contend with a father who just really wasn’t a great guy. Like Emmy, he also had to accept certain aspects of his family, and I enjoyed watching the process it took for him to come to these conclusions.

Even though Halpin and Cook’s book revolves around therapy, there is a ton of adventure to go around when all the kids from the Anger Management class are involved. That was by far my favorite aspect of the book: the friendships formed out of necessity growing into something supportive and true. It was fun tagging along on the wild “pig” chase and seeing what happens.

Definitely more of a light-hearted look at teens struggling with various obstacles, A Really Awesome Mess is a pretty fast-paced read with unique characters, a blossoming romance, and a cinematic feel.

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August 13, 2013 - 2:45 pm

Maggie @ Just a Couple More Pages - I think I read the first chapter or two of this one and I just couldn’t get into it. Even though you didn’t love it your review kind of makes me want to give it another shot.

(Last blog comment for me today, I’m catching up on my RSS reader after being gone for 2 weeks!)

August 11, 2013 - 11:24 am

Alexa Y. - The one thing I can say about this book? It’s definitely FUN. I can envision this as being a fun film, particularly with the exaggerated characters in the group of friends. Definitely a good read for me 🙂

August 5, 2013 - 7:33 pm

Bookworm1858 - I did not really like the pig aspect (felt drawn out and made it hard to eat my bacon sandwich) but I did enjoy the group meetings a ton and thought that was where the book really shone in addition to the tackling of less commonly discussed issues like feeling unwanted because adopted.

August 5, 2013 - 7:28 pm

Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads - You had me at Harry Potter :). I’m going to see if my library has this one 😉

August 5, 2013 - 6:27 pm

Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader - I’ve heard wonderful things about this story thus far and I’m really excited to read it, particularly after your Breakfast Club reference, which has always been one of my favourite films! From what I’ve heard A Really Awesome Mess has the potential to remove some of the stigma surrounding mental illness by approaching it in a more relatable manner, and like you, I love the fact that it focuses on identity issues stemming from adoption. One of my cousins is adopted and struggled with this throughout her infancy and teens and there was very little for her to turn to in the way of fiction covering these or similar issues. I’ll definitely be recommending this novel to her and picking it up myself!

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