When the first line of a novel is 'I loved being a burrito', you could easily guess that you're in for quite a different read! I didn't instantly love this book or the main character - it did take a little while to get into, especially as a British reader - there was quite a few americanisms and slang - but once I'd read a few chapters, I was easily drawn into this easy to read page turner.
When we meet our protagonist, Chloe, for the first time, she is standing on a street, dressed as a burrito and wearing her trademark vintage shoes. As soon as we meet Chloe, we are introduced to her confidence and quite outlandish personality. I actually found her loud personality to be a welcome change in the Young Adult genre. She was extremely optimistic and self assured, which I understand could grate a little on some readers, as it certainly annoyed one character, Clementine, in the story. Some may find Chloe a little over confident at first, but as the book progresses, it's easier to warm to her - I certainly did. Although Chloe may seem like a happy go lucky, once popular, positive 'It' girl - she does know that she isn't perfect and neither is her life.
Whilst, for the most part, there is quite a light tone to this book with a lot of humour thrown in, it's clear that Coriell isn't afraid to deal with real issues, from Chloe's grandmother having Parkinson's disease to dealing with substance abuse and abusive relationships. She has managed to weave these tough subjects into her story with ease in a realistic and sensitive manner. I think that including these aspects certainly helped to add something extra to the novel and give it a more credible undertone to the story. I found some of the scenes to be quite touching and though it did give a good representation of the problems, it didn't get dark or depressing.
This book isn't just about Chloe - it's about a whole bunch of people around her.
At the beginning, we learn that Chloe has been snubbed by her 'BFFs' for something that she's not quite sure of. It would've been interesting to learn more about these two girls, Mercedes and Brie who are mentioned several times throughout, but we gather that the three of them had a sister-like bond and were pretty popular. After being rejected by her once-friends, she then discovers that her new guidance counsellor is forcing her to start a new Junior Independent Study Project (JISP) - at the school radio station, KDRS The Edge. There, Chloe meets an eclectic mix of characters - misfits, outsiders, who consist of Clementine, Frick, Frack, Haley and Duncan. These people aren't trying to be quirky or 'unique', but they are - they are all quite quiet, yet still very distinct. Along with Chloe, I formed a connection with, and started to love, all of them - they did feel like a family and worked together amazingly well.
Duncan was the guy in the group who also formed as Chloe's love interest. Their chemistry seemed to build naturally and I enjoyed watching their relationship progress. Personally, I really liked Duncan. He was the boy-next-door figure - he wasn't perfect, but he was sweet, caring and his heart was in the right place - he also had some mystery about him, which was good.
As aforementioned, another character who plays quite a large role in her life is her Grandmother - 'Grams', who is at war with Chloe's mother over going into a care home because of her deteriorating health. It was really lovely to see how Chloe and her Grams interacted, they had a very loving, trusting and loyal relationship. It was interesting to see how Chloe reacted to the issue of care for Grams.
The only thing I could complain about is the fact that I didn't feel as though everything was completely concluded - I would've liked to hear a lot more about some of the characters, particularly Brie, and the aftermath of the big twist at the end could've been explored more, but maybe that is me being greedy for more!
Overall, this was a really fun read. Don't expect a literary masterpiece and don't take Chloe's attitude so seriously - embrace her enthusiasm, expect fun, laughing out loud and something that you won't want to put down for long.show more
by Stephanie Forster (Stepping out of the Page)