Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review: 40 Things I Want To Tell You by Alice Kuipers

40 Things I Want to Tell You by Alice Kuipers
Publisher: HarperTrophy Canada
Publication Date: February 10, 2012
Page Count: 283
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Goodreads & Amazon

Amy, aka Bird, has all that a high school girl could ever want. She has quirky and supportive parents. Her best friend, Cleo, is involved and caring. Her boyfriend, Griffin, adores her. She writes an anonymous advice blog, and she's on the path to attend Oxford University. She is always careful, always predictable, and always perfect. But then Pete Loewen shows up at school, and she is everything he is not. A rumored drug addict, seemingly so much older, and unambitious...and so, very, damningly handsome. Bird finds herself straying off of her perfect path, like a moth to Pete's flame, and she quickly sees that one small walk on the wild side is enough to shatter everything she's been working towards.
Dear MetalGirl,
Tips to Take Back ControlTake a deep breath when you are feeling like you're not in control.
Write a list of all the things you need to do.
Stay on top of your homework and try to keep your work space tidy--it helps keep your mind tidy.
Meditation, Pilates, or yoga can help reduce your blood pressure and calm you down, and you'll find some great classes online which you can watch.
Talk to your friends and family about your feelings.
Remember, you are in control, always.
From one teen to another...
Miss Take-Control-of-Your-Life
From the very beginning of the book, Bird seems as perfect as you could ever imagine a teenaged girl being. She keeps to-do lists. She schedules her homework. She gets to school early for extra studying, and is constantly discussing with her teachers the best ways to prepare for early admissions at Oxford. She even schedules in time for exercising to keep her head clear, and she has put a hold on losing her virginity with her boyfriend Griffin. Even her advice blog gives us an idea of just how perfect she is, or how perfect she thinks she is, and her best friend Cleo whines to her that she is too predictable. Of course, nothing gold can stay. When Pete Loewen, the sexy new student with a hurricane of rumors surrounding him, shows up, her perfection starts to crack, and not only her own perfection but the perfection of her parent's marriage, and her perfect lifelong relationship with Griffin. Bird is, of course, drawn to Pete. He is everything she isn't, and definitely holds no similarities to Griffin. But there is something about him that quickens her pulse and makes her desire to be near him.
I was the worst teenage advice columnist ever. I couldn't figure out how other people made it look so easy to give advice when I was so clueless. I typed out a lame answer and deleted it, retyped it, deleted it again. I needed to find my confident Miss Take-Control self. Everything going on in my own life was getting in the way of me being able to deal with CyberG's question, and I was sick of being so overwhelmed with my own drama: Griffin, his mum, Pete. Okay...kissing the wrong person--with my own recent experience, I should be able to figure out the right thing to say.
For Pete being such an integral part of Bird's story and drama, I didn't feel like I knew anything about him. We are only given the rumors, which Bird hear's through the grapevine, and she hurls at him in moments of high tension, but he never clears these rumors or addresses them enough to let us know whether or not they are true. Each time he and Bird interacted with each other, I felt like I was coming into the middle of their conversation. Even just the first time they spoke to each other, I felt like I had missed a previous conversation and flipped back a few pages to make sure that I hadn't. There was no build up to their flirtation and physical relationship, it just started happening with little or no lead in and left me with general feelings of 'WTF?!' At one point, I actually set my book down because I couldn't even believe what was happening.
source: realitytvgifs
Speaking of 'WTF' moments in this book, Amy was at the base of most of them, making her a very unlikeable character for me. I can usually jive with unlikeable characters, and they typically can make a book more conflicting and exciting when you end up liking them anyway. For example, Amy, and her husband, in Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. It takes little time for Bird to completely shed her Miss Take-Control persona and morph into a person that becomes almost unrecognizable from the Bird at the beginning of the book. It is hardly explained in her first person narrative, either. I would've liked to see her reflect more on her actions and try to find a reason or two why she was acting completely out of character, but there isn't any sort of contemplation which leads the big 'WTF' moments to seem random and out of left field. I'm all about character's changing in books, and they show, but usually they grow into something better or some other realization. I've never seen a character take so many steps in the opposite direction of where they should be going. Even worse for me was that as Bird lets her life spiral out of control, she becomes more volatile and dislikable and there is not even a shred of who she used to be involved in her decisions.
Griffin. I had to tell Griffin.
I had to tell Dad.
The teachers.
This was really happening.
How could Pete have done this to me?
I heard the first bell as I pushed my way through the mocking faces of everyone around me. My heart was racing. I marched out of the school building, trying to keep my head high. As I passed the park opposite of school, I could feel my cheeks burning. I though of Pete and his metallic-grey eyes when they looked at me. I felt desire. And something else. Hatred. I hated him for ruining my life. Hated him.
I read this book, obsessively, though, like one would watch a Lifetime movie: the acting is not very good, it's super overdramatic, and it's a Lifetime movie, but you still find yourself watching it and talking about it to all of your friends. I found myself ranting to my boyfriend and co-workers about 40 Things I Want to Tell You, which I feel is a sign of a good story. The kinds of things that happen to Bird in this book are real things that happen to real teenagers, and are real things that they struggle with. My biggest issue, though, was that a character like Bird had been given her situation and instead of making the best of it and taking control as she usually would have done, she let it get the best of her and just watched her life spiral out of control, all while ruining the relationships she had with everyone around her. I think she really could have made it out on top: her parents stood by her side, and her best friend remained to be involved, but she eventually made it impossible for them to get through to her, which was saddening.
The next day, I was so tired I could hardly think as I went from class to class at school. At one point I stumbled and leaned against my locker. When I looked up, Griffin was staring at me, his vivid blue eyes filled with pain. His hair was wet--he must have come from gym class and just had a shower. I attempted a smile. He pushed his hair from his face and his gaze ran down over my body. I wanted to say something to him but there were no words left. His lips puckered like he'd eaten something bitter. I could almost see his heart breaking all over again. He turned away.
It was so hard for me to rate this book, mostly because I could not agree with how Bird's character was handled, and her interactions with Pete and his lack of real backstory. I liked Griffin and Cleo's characters though. They were always sweet to Bird and gave her a support system that she rejected. And because of all of the drama in this story, I could not put the book down during the last half. There is so much more that I could tell you guys, but then I would veer hard into Spoiler Territory. I just wished that Bird had stuck to her characterization and took better control of her situation. Despite really disliking Bird, though, this book is worth a read and serves more like a cautionary tale than one to learn from.

Do you ever feel conflicted rating books where you enjoyed reading the story but really didn't like the main character? 


  1. A cautionary tale? This does sound like a Lifetime movie. I am not in the mood for a book like this right now, but I will have to keep this book in mind for the future.

    1. yes! maybe not a cautionary tale to the T, but Bird definitely breaks some rules she has set for herself and faces some serious consequences. I couldn't mention all of it because it would really spoil the story, but it is worth the read once you're in the mood! :)