Title : Nothing Like Looking
Author : Chris Van Hakes
Series : N/A, Standalone
Genre : Young Adult Fiction
Number of Pages : 233
Publication Date : March 2, 2015
Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing
One of the things I love most about blogging is the fun people I've been able to meet. There are some amazingly talented writers and vloggers out there. Best of all, I've found some people with whom I feel I've really been able to connect.
When I first started blogging regularly, one of the blogs I read most often was Reading and Chickens. The writer was real and funny and witty. She was real. I could see us being friends in real life. The blog is no longer there, but that fantastically hilarious author, Chris Van Hakes, has now published two novels. And lucky for me, she sent me a copy of her latest project, Nothing Like Looking.
Now, there may be a tendency for readers to think that I've given her a better rating because I know who she is, but in all honesty, I think that put more pressure on me to be brutally honest. I've never sugar coated a review and I never intend to. Though I appreciate all of the hard work that Chris has gone through to write her books, I knew that I needed to read this novel based on its own merit, whether it stood or failed. That fact made me incredibly nervous to read it. Though I had read many things Chris had written prior, I was worried that it wouldn't live up to my expectations.
Turns out, that worry was completely unfounded. This book was fantastic!
Reed Larson was just expelled from her old school. Do you want to know why? Me too. But she won’t say.
Ask her about the book her brother gave her instead, The Hobbit.
Or the beautiful boy named Mason.
Or her new school, Fancy Snob School for Rich Kids That Want to be Fancy (FSSFRKTWTBF for short).
Or how she’s hiding everything about herself.
Actually, scratch that. Just ask her why J.R.R. Tolkien has too many initials. She can’t talk about the rest.
- Goodreads blurb
The blurb doesn't do the book justice. It gives you a taste, but there's just so much more within the narrative. The writing is witty and funny without being corny. There is plenty of great snark and several smart academic and culturally cross-referencing Easter eggs that reminded me of the writing in Gilmore Girls, one of my favorite television shows.
Reed is a high school student in Seattle who has recently transferred from a Christian school to a preppy academy after her expulsion from questionable circumstances involving a fight and her friend, Roger.
Reed has always wanted to feel like one of the "normals", but believes this isn't possible for someone like her, someone who cuts her own hair into a jagged pixie, who wears overalls, and has a crazy vegan dad. Her older brother encourages her to enjoy the ability to start over, giving her a copy of The Hobbit as a source of inspiration.
Within one day at her new school, things have already become a disaster. Her assigned tour guide, Jettplayn (she's one of those kids whose parents let them name themselves), has dug through the transfer records and uncovered the fact that Reed was expelled for being gay, something forbidden by the strict religious nature of her prior school. When the entire student body (and more importantly, handsome and smart Mason) reacts by considering her cool and brave, Reed realizes that this is her one chance to fit in. But it comes with a pretty steep price...Reed is living the worst kind of lie. She isn't really gay. Now she's torn between the truth she knows she needs to tell and the new life she has the chance to lead.
The story is cute and the characters are entertainingly quirky. The book deals with a difficult event in current teenage culture, but from a reverse perspective that I found creative and smart. The characters are different and break free of the common YA stereotypes.
I'll be honest, there were several times I found myself frustrated with Reed and her inability to be more sure of herself, but it was easy to see her thought processes as those of a teenage girl. Van Hakes captures the teenage angst of being trapped between your real self and the self that others want you to be very well. I actually found myself being able to identify with Reed, despite the fact that I just wanted her to come clean. Being a teenager is difficult and I can very clearly recall doing things throughout my teenage years (as well as my twenties) just to make other people happy or to help myself fit in. Despite the fact that her situation isn't one I could particularly relate to, I could understand the basic premises. In fact, there is a strong feeling of realism in all of the characters, despite their overwhelming uniqueness.
When it really comes down to it, Nothing Like Looking is a great read for anyone who enjoys YA fiction. It's something of a cross between E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver series and Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. Chris's hilarious snark comes through the pages masterfully. It had me smiling and laughing out loud from beginning to end. In fact, I LOVED this book. This will be one that I will definitely be reading again.
Disclaimer: I received this book as a free copy from the author. These books are given to me as review copies to read and evaluate. I choose which books I review on my blog and on my Goodreads profile. I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews. My reviews are always honest...I never lie about books.