Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: For Keeps by Natasha Friend

Title: For Keeps

Author: Natasha Friend

Pages: 272

Received from: ATWT


For sixteen years, Josie Gardner and her mom, Kate, have been a team. It’s been the Gardner Girls against the world, and that’s how Josie likes it. Until one day, in the pet food aisle of Shop-Co, they run into the parents of Paul Tucci, Kate’s high school boyfriend—the father Josie has never met. If Mr. and Mrs. Tucci are back in town, it’s only a matter of time until Paul shows up. Suddenly Josie’s mature, capable mother regresses to the heartbroken teenager she was when Paul moved away. Meanwhile, Josie’s on the verge of having her first real boyfriend, while her free-loving best friend, Liv, begins yet another no-strings-attached fling. When Josie learns some surprising truths about Paul Tucci, she finds herself questioning what she’s always believed about her parents—and about herself. In FOR KEEPS, Natasha Friend tells a fresh, funny, smart story about what happens when a girl gets the guy she always wanted and the dad she never knew she needed.

The first thought I got in my head when perusin' the summary of For Keeps was holyshit its Gilmore Girls all over again! Single mom who had child young, together go through all sorts of wacky misadventures while trying to both discover themselves and muddle through life with witty, quick-lipped dialogue. But then, how often are these summaries accurate?

Josie and her mom are best friends--not in the lameass way, either. Kate, unlike the claims most mothers make, actually does remember what it was like to be young. Therefore, she is made of win. So, basically, Josie and her mother live in peace, along with her best friend Liv and her two dads, Pops and Dobb (not real names, but these are cooler). And she knows all about her father; Paul Tucci, wealthy family, residence in Arizona, knocked Kate up in high school and moved before Josie was more then a single-cell organism. For all she cares, Paul Tucci is a sperm-donor and nothing more. Her mother, however, is still hung up on her ill-fated romance and running into Paul's parents at the store doesn't help none. Josie is forced to deal with her mothers reversion back into teenagerdom while stimutaniously struggling with her own love life. She learns about Life and Love and the Importance of Family.

I'm not entirely sure how I felt about For Keeps. One one hand, everything seemed so rushed and unevenly distributed I felt cheated out of a good tear-jerker. On the other, however, I did get something of a tear-jerker; not in the "ohmigod *sob*" kind of way, but just in the sense that all the characters were so real and fleshed out that you wanted them to have their happy ending, no matter how they got there.

I think my main quelm with the book was, again, I felt cheated. Like everyone got the easy way out and the author took all these shortcuts and there really, truly should have been more there. More substance, more tears and revelations! None of this "oops, I just happen to run into my long lost grandparents at the store and then said long lost grandparents just happen to wander into the cafe/ice cream joint that I work at and my grandfather just happens to have a heart attack at said cafe and I just happen to run into my long lost father at the hospital" nonsense. Does anyone expect that to happen in the real world? No, and if you do you shouldn't, because the odds of that actually, for realzies happening is so slim it could fit into a pinhead. Not only this, but everything just felt rushed. You all know what I mean, when problems are solved faster then you can snap your finger and these moments which feel like they should be huge aren't really that huge, just a paragraph or so. It was just very...frustrating, since I felt like this could have been a really heartwarming sort of book.

Another issue I had was Josie herself. She was, as a whole, a solid character with believable motivations and a good head on her shoulders. But her relationship with Riggs itched me the wrong way. When theres some tension with her mom, she immediatley leans on Riggs and shares her deepest, darkest secrets with the boy. And then he acts like an asshole and she get pissed, and then five seconds later she forgives him. Some could see this as creating a well-rounded character with flaws and shit, making him apologize and everything, but I just found it so anti-feminist the ways she just lets it roll off her shoulder just cause he batted his purdy blue eyes. Oy.

Having said this, I really didn't not like For Keeps. It kept me reading, kept me concerned with Josie's character and where her decisions would lead her. I loved Liv and her parents, and I loved Kate, and I was honestly rooting for these people. The prose was cute and witty, with the appropriate amounts of angst. I didn't once throw my hands up in despair, wishig to strangle someone or another. I just liked it, with no tangible reason but for the fact that its a likeable book that, despite its flaws, manages to make you happy.

Rating: 7ish out of 10

Also: check out Friend's other works.


brizmus said...

This book sounds moving! I'm so sad that you ended up feeling cheated and that you didn't love Josie.

Anonymous said...

I can always count on you for a solid and truthful opinion. :D I'm still really excited to read this one though.

robby (once upon a book blog/fourteen years) said...

This book does sound really great and I'm on the Around The World tour list for this. I'm curious now. Thank you for your honest review.

Jodie said...

I was immediately thinking Gilmore Girls too. Sounds cute and fun, if a little frustrating.

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