I seem to be on a contemporary YA kick. Maybe because it’s summertime. Or maybe I’ve gotten sick of fantasy (not likely)? Whatever the case, I’ve been lucky and enjoyed some top-notch reading in the genre this year, including Don't Stop Now, Sean Griswold’s Head, Epic Fail, and today’s pick, Notes from the Blender.
Two things drew me to this book: the contrast presented in the cover art, and the summary. Okay, so mostly it was the summary. But a cute cover that ‘matches’ the tone of the book never hurts, either, and this one certainly captures the quirky/fun/hilarious vibe of the novel. Aside from both of those things, Princess Bookie’s review caught my eye last week. Sometimes that is all it takes.
Declan loves death metal – particularly from Finland. And video games – violent ones. And internet porn – any kind, really. He goes to school with Neilly Foster and spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even to graze against her sweater in the hallway.
Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and a constant presence at all the best parties (to which Declan is never invited). She's the queen of cool, the princess of poker face, and her rule is uncontested – or it was until today, when she's dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and then informed she's getting a new brother – of the freaky fellow classmate variety. Declan's dad is marrying Neilly's mom. Soon. Which means they'll be moving in together.
Notes from the Blender is a funny, crazy, angsty, REAL book. It’s the kind of thing I read now as an adult and appreciate, but wish with all my heart I’d picked up in high school, when I was so busy judging everyone and everything. It’s heartfelt and sweet, and it made me laugh out loud multiple times. It’s the kind of book that I’d read aloud to my roommate in bits just so I could see her eyebrows fly up. It’s special.
The book is narrated in two voices – Neilly and Declan take turns telling their story. Both of these kids are going through rough spots, and they’re dealing with adjustment to a blended family at the same time. Just like in real life, there are poor decisions, combustible situations, and a lot of odd and hilarious moments. Neilly is insecure and guarded, Declan is a little pervy. In other words, they're *gasp* normal.
There are several strong side characters in addition to Declan and Neilly, and one that I identified with was Declan’s Aunt Sarah, a lesbian Unitarian minister. Her part in the plot is small, but she’s still a fun, loving woman dedicated to helping others heal. She’s the sort of character you want to meet in real life. Not perfect, but kind and helpful (the person you'd be if you put more effort into it, maybe). Notes made me reflect on multiple paths of personal development when it wasn’t making me snort with laughter. And that combo is a very good thing.
Recommended for: older teens, guys AND girls, readers who have experienced blended families (and who hasn’t these days?), those looking for a strong dose of humor in their contemporary YA lit, and anyone who has caught themselves wondering what an authentic male teen voice sounds like (horny and all).