Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co./Macmillan
Target audience: Young adult
Format read: ARC from Publisher. (Thanks!)
Summary: Two high schoolers — connected by the poor decisions of their parents — meet up at CVS and begin a shaky friendship.
I spent a lot of my high school life in CVS. My dad surprised me with my first car there. I fell in love there. (The drama!) I made some incredible friends. It was a home away from home so when I heard there was a little bit of CVS folded into Finding Mr. Brightside — I knew I had to read it.
Abram and Juliette may not actually work at their CVS (their loss) but it is where they cross paths and embark on an unlikely friendship. The kids of parents who had an affair and died together sounds like a page out of a soap opera, I know. But I can assure you that Jay Clark makes it work. Abram and Juliette are individually dealing with the repercussions of their parents’ sins and tragic ends — from the “help” of prescriptions and the way they’ve been forced to, and in some cases chose to, change their lives since everything went down.
Clark possesses this unreal magic: making Abram and Juliette’s complicated situations so… uncomplicated. Alternating between Abram and Juliette’s POVs, we see how each dealt with a death of a parent, how Juliette has no choice but to become the adult in a household where her dad won’t let go of her mom, and how medicine isn’t exactly working for both of them. This works because Finding Mr. Brightside is peppered with quirky dialogue and great little details — Juliette’s love of Starbucks, Abram and his documentaries, and so many of those tiny moments that build up and become part of a couple’s makeup — the inside jokes, the silly exchanges, that intimacy.
Even though Abram is more of the glass half-full type and knows exactly how to push Juliette out of her comfort zone (in a gentle way), Juliette is just as nimble about confronting him about his lack of thought for his future and what he’s given up in the wake of his father’s death. What are the chances the person you needed in your life was also attached to this very bad thing? Slim, I’m sure. But Abram and Juliette fill gaps in each other’s lives that desperately need filling. It never felt forced, or coincidental. FMB is a short book too, and still, the development of past and present is so on point.
So besides being funny and charming, our characters take a trip to the beach and I love this because at first it seems like it’s going to be some kind of “I like you so much” bubble but the real world can’t help but trickle in and both characters are forced to combat some demons: old and new. But there’s something to be said about seeing these two character co-exist in a place where they haven’t been living within the walls they’ve created. Again, it works here because the author shows readers: hey, things might be pretty craptastic right now but we can’t forget the enjoy the beautiful things too like whales and bad karaoke.
I could talk this one up all night, can you tell? Finding Mr. Brightside may have a great romance but it’s so much more than that — two people struggling to identify with their parents and come to terms with the cards life has dealt you (negative and positive). All with a unique sense of Jay Clark humor.