Title: Flat Out Love
Author: Jessica Park
Genre: NA, contemporary fiction, romance
Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
Publication Date: April 11, 2011
Synopsis from Goodreads: He was tall, at least six feet, with dirty blond hair that hung over his eyes. His T-shirt read Nietzsche Is My Homeboy.
So, that was Matt. Who Julie Seagle likes. A lot. But there is also Finn. Who she flat out loves.
Complicated? Awkward? Completely.
But really, how was this freshly-minted Boston transplant and newbie college freshman supposed to know that she would end up living with the family of an old friend of her mother’s? This was all supposed to be temporary. Julie wasn’t supposed to be important to the Watkins family, or to fall in love with one of the brothers. Especially the one she’s never quite met. But what does that really matter? Finn gets her, like no one ever has before. They have connection.
But here’s the thing about love, in all its twisty, bumpy permutations—it always throws you a few curves. And no one ever escapes unscathed.
Flat Out Love was even better than Park’s other NA novel, Left Drowning, and has a heartbreakingly sweet plot line that made me laugh and cry at the same time. The characters were well developed, and Matt and Celeste in particular were original and engaging, and easy to relate to in their awkward ways. The romance was realistic, and I was 100% invested in these characters and their relationships as family, friends, and lovers.
I’d had my eye on this book for a while now, ever since I finished Left Drowning months ago, and when Veronica ordered it I put in my reservation for a borrow! She finished it and immediately brought it over, and I think both of us had read it within three or four days. And then we fangirled/cried together. Oh yes, the feels were strong in this one. It had a very different feel from Left Drowning – it was a lot lighter, happier, and a lot less traumatic. Well, maybe still traumatic, just in another way.
The characters were what really drove this story. Set over the span of one year, Flat Out Love follows Julie after she’s conned by an apartment listing and ends up living with her mom’s college friend – and her two children, Matt and Celeste. Over that year, Julie figures out that there’s a lot more to this family, with hidden secrets galore. Celeste, in addition to being highly intelligent and already out of place for her age, carries a cardboard cutout of her older brother Finn, who is traveling the world for an unknown period of time. Matt wears weird geeky t-shirts (which I happened to love), and buries himself in his studies at MIT when he’s not caring for Celeste. All three characters were really the focus of the book, while Julie tries to find her own way in her freshman year of college, figure out Celeste and what makes her tick, try to understand Matt, and in the meantime fall in love with Finn after they start exchanging emails.
I don’t think I can emphasize enough how much I loved these three characters. I really identified with Celeste, and felt a bit nostalgic as I remembered thirteen year old me and how similar I was to Celeste at that age. And I identified with Matt as well, being about his age and sharing a lot of his personality as well. And then with Julie as well, with her being a fixer and trying to understand this family and help them. Basically, all three felt so personal that I was completely sucked in and felt every emotion as if it were my own. I wasn’t like them, in some ways, but in that they felt like they could be best friends to me.
As this was a character driven book, there’s not much to say in way of plot. Although the secret that festers in the Watkins family is perfectly woven in, with just enough suspense to keep me saying, “WHAT IS GOING ON HERE??” The dialogue and characterization was really where Park shines. Matt and Julie’s witty banter carries through the whole novel, and some of my favorite parts are when they’re not being serious, but just goofing off. The scene when they talk about font nerds was my absolute favorite – and the creepy part was that I’ve realized I may be a font nerd: I knew exactly what they were talking about the whole time!
And since this is a contemporary romance, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lovey dovey bits. There was almost a triangle here, between Julie, Finn, and Matt, but it didn’t bother me all that much. Finn was sassy in that cool guy kind of way, but I knew in my heart that Matt and Julie were meant for each other. I felt like that old lady sitting back and saying, “Don’t worry honey I know you’ll be back I’ll just sit here in my infinite wisdom.” And can I just say that Matt is super sexy for a nerd? Like where can I find a Matt please God bring a Matt into my life!
Overall, I would highly recommend this book. The ending (and big reveal – no spoilers here!) left me heartbroken, but in a good way. I felt almost… raw. Yeah, that’s it. I felt like my chest had been ripped wide open, and I had a hangover for the rest of the day. But in a better way than Left Drowning – with LD I was completely wrecked, and a sobbing mess, but FOL had more hope and healing at the end. If you’re looking for something more fluffy (and I use that term relatively – this is still a book with a heavy topic), I recommend Flat Out Love versus Left Drowning. But Park is definitely an author I’ll be following now! And I need to get my own copy of Flat Out Love. I’ll need a reread soon and I can’t always hop over to Veronica’s when I want to!
My Final Rating:
Food for thought (sound off in the comments!)
If you’ve read the book:
- What did you think of the ending and the reveal of the big secret? Did you see it coming at all? (Try not to be too spoilery, or give a warning at the top of your comment!)
- Out of the two brothers, did you like Finn or Matt better?
- What did you think of Celeste’s character arc? Was she too out of the box, or did you like the fact that Park brought in a character that wasn’t the perfect sweet little girl?
If you haven’t:
- When there’s a mystery in a book, are you annoyed or do you like the suspense it brings?
- Do you like the trend of broken families in YA, or do you wish there were more books that portrayed healthy family relationships?