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A Really Awesome Mess

A Really Awesome Mess

Book rating: 04 Hardback

By (author) Brendan Halpin, By (author) Trish Cook

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  • Publisher: Egmont USA
  • Format: Hardback | 282 pages
  • Dimensions: 140mm x 212mm x 26mm | 400g
  • Publication date: 25 July 2013
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 160684363X
  • ISBN 13: 9781606843635
  • Sales rank: 502,940

Product description

A hint of "Recovery Road," a sample of" Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," and a cut of "Juno." A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves. Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy. Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin's summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents' divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom. Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog-- and Emmy definitely doesn't. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook. Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends. A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for. "Releases simultaneously in electronic book format (ISBN 978-1-60684-364-2) "

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Author information

Trish Cook is the author of Notes from the Blender, So Lyrical, and Overnight Sensation. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and daughters. You can visit her online at www.trishcook.com. Brendan Halpin is the author of Notes from the Blender, How Ya Like Me Now, Forever Changes, and Donorboy, an Alex Award Winner. He lives in Boston with his wife, Suzanne, their three children, and their dog. You can visit him online at www.brendanhalpin.com.

Customer reviews

By Heather Rosdol 15 Aug 2013 5

This is a funny, often hilarious look at real teens with real problems stuck in a recovery center, isolated from family and friends, forced to face that they have issues and then what their issues are. As I read this novel, waiting for my sons to get out of math camp (!!), I had to cover my mouth and hide I was laughing out loud. I have never had that problem before. But some of the lines early on had me just crying from laughter.

The two main characters Emmy and Justin have funny, sarcastic teenage voices that ring true. Emmy is the Chinese American adopted daughter in a family where she doesn't "look" like she belongs. She lets her ideas about how things look influence her beliefs about how her family feels about her. Then a boy, of course, diminishes her self worth even more. She develops anger issues and an eating disorder that lands her at Heartland Academy. Justin is there for getting caught doing something totally embarrassing and then taking an overdose of Tylenol. But he does have anger issues and supposed sexual issues. Each chapter is told from one of their points of view.

Here's why I think the book works so well. It's funny, laugh out loud moments are interspersed with snarky teenage sarcasm and comments. A cast of characters that separately are just a mess, but in a group, in Anger Management, working together, they rock! Each one has a unique problem from sexual abuse to compulsive lying, but their very smart group leader makes them work together to earn privileges. They work together, learn together, threaten, force, lie, cheat, steal and do just about anything to make sure they get those privileges. It is a beautiful thing to see!

The authors of A Really Awesome Mess have taken some really dark and scary issues and without belittling them or making them seem any less serious, they've brought some levity and laughter to the situation. Teens suffering from anxiety, depression, eating disorders or any type of mental health issue should appreciate a little laughter as some medicine. I take mental health very serious yet found this novel a refreshing break from other "issue" books. I encourage you to read it and see if it doesn't make you smile!

Recommended for older teens due to sexual references, language and adult situations. This is a contemporary YA novel for 16 and up.

I received a review copy of this novel from MM Publicity for this review. This in no way influenced my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

By Kate @ Fictional Thoughts 15 Jul 2013 3

I've read a few books where teens are placed in facilities and they're not meant to be there. They complain and moan and as you get into the novel you come to realize that they truly are not meant to be there. This is not the case with Emmy and Justin in A Really Awesome Mess. Oh - they gripe about being sent to Heartland Academy, and at the start it seems like they have a legitimate claim. But then, after spending a little time with them - it's clear that they are both really awesome messes. Emmy has spent a lifetime feeling like an outsider. As an adopted daughter from China, she has always felt out-of-place in her tall blonde family. So she diets trying to feel like appearance wise, she fits in. And the may have the slightest anger management issues when she decides to get retribution on a classmate by vilifying and humiliating them online. Justin's depressed and engages in some very risky behaviour trying to get attention from his parents.

This dual POV novel was great at capturing angst, anger and the all round bad and slightly defeated attitude of both Emmy and Justin. They're feeling betrayed and their pain is evident when reading their stories. I enjoyed reading their stories. And the supporting characters? Amazing. I loved the great cast and their eccentricities.

But this book is a mess (possibly the mess referred to in the title) when it comes to the romance between Emmy and Justin. It just didn't work for me. I can't stand when authors think that just because they're writing for YA audiences then there needs to be a love story. The relationship between these two felt superfluous and so very out of character for both.

A Really Awesome Mess was an enjoyable read with some issues but there were a few heart-warming moments as well.

By Sarah Elizabeth 01 Jul 2013 4

(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Egmont USA and Netgalley.)
16-year-old Emmy is Chinese, but her parents aren't, and it's causing her all sorts of problems. Emmy was adopted from an orphanage in China as a baby, and her adoptive parents then got pregnant naturally. Now she's ¼ of a perfect blond family, who look absolutely nothing like her.
This wouldn't be such a problem if the people at school didn't make it a problem. But they bullied her about it, so she made some nasty comments back, and then she got kicked out of school.
Now she's stuck at 'Assland' Academy (AKA Heartland Academy) because she's 'angry', but all she thinks she's angry about is the fact that she's bullied for being the odd one out. Oh, and she's not anorexic either, she just doesn't want to be fat.

16-year-old Justin is new at 'Assland' Academy too. His dad caught him getting sexual favours from a girl whose name he didn't even know, and then he took an overdose of Tylenol - not to kill himself, just as a cry for help. He may feel numb, but he certainly doesn't need to be taking 'Sexual Reactivity' classes either.

Both Emmy and Justin don't want to be at 'Assland' Academy, but they're both stuck there anyway, and they both have their own problems to work out.
Do Emmy's family really not love her? Is she really anorexic? Should Justin be in the Sexual Reactivity class? And can Justin and Emmy benefit from the people and students at 'Assland' Academy?


This was an interesting book that was actually quite funny in places.

I felt really sorry for Emmy, she had obviously been bullied, and I couldn't really blame her for wanting to get a little payback. This bullying wasn't just making her feel bad, it was also undermining her relationship with her parents and making her feel unloved, which had really pushed her over the edge.
Justin seemed to be acting out because really he needed help. His depression wasn't obvious, it was more a background sort of thing, but in the end it was obvious that he was suffering.

The thing that I appreciated most about this book was its humour. Even though these kids were in a pretty poor position, they actually managed to make light of their situation at times, and some of the jokes were actually quite funny.
I loved how Justin took the punishment of losing 'points', and turned it into 'Ten points from Gryffindor!', and how when the therapist questioned him about whether he would place himself in Gryffindor house, he told her that he'd 'sort himself right next to Emma Watson'.

The storyline in this book was okay, and it was nice to see how the kids at the academy improved through their relationships with one another. I also liked the storyline about the pet pig, which was another key part of the story.
The ending was also alright, and it was obvious the steps that both Emmy and Justin and the other kids had made on the road to recovery.
Overall; a funny, coming-of-age story.
7 out of 10.