Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark
Published by Henry Holt and Co. BYR
Publish Date: March 24, 2015
Find it here: Goodreads / Amazon
Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.
Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins. (Goodreads)
This book! This book! Why did it mean so much to me? WHY!
1. The Characters. Abram is easy to love with his awkwardness and Paxil-induced sleepiness, his love for Taco Bell, television shows about whales, and popcorn snacks. Juliette is a little bit harder to love, sometimes dangerously close to unlikable, but OH MY how she is perfect for exactly this story. She is addicted to running and maybe even Adderall, and she sadly has low self-esteem. She has a hard time seeing her worth and her beauty, while that is just about all Abram sees. Abram is laid-back; Juliette is a bit of a control freak. They are such a quirky pair but they complement each other so well. They could not complement each other any better, really. But it’s not only the characters that I loved.
2. The Situation. Well, I didn’t love the fact that Abram and Juliette each lost a parent in a car accident during an affair. That’s sad! What I loved about this situation is that it is a plausible one. The fallout experienced by each family: the discomfort and embarrassment they endured around one another and out in the community is something that felt so very real. It changed them as people and it changed how they interacted with one another. It left doubts in their minds about life and love, and these things are so palpable and important in real life. How can I not love this as a reader? I easily saw this as a real thing, the way this played out, which is so interesting because some of what I’m talking about happened before the book even began! Also, I can imagine that I could know these families in my own life. I think that how Abram and Juliette responded to everything – both before the story began and during the duration of the book – was authentic and gosh I just loved that. This felt like a hard situation, but one that was made better by these people joining forces and becoming friends during a chance-meeting at CVS. I love real-life-happens stories, and this felt like one. But it’s also not only the situation that I loved.
3. The Romance. Abram and Juliette are the entire point of this story, which means that we are scrutinizing their relationship throughout its lifespan. Seriously the romance isn’t really everything because their story begins before romantic feelings. The story is bigger than the romance alone but it is there, and it is doled out perfectly. I love this. I love that Abram has the crush on Juliette before the book begins, and I even love that he thought the accident-that-changed-everything ruined any chance that he had with Juliette. This is what made the crazy chance run-in at CVS such a BIG HUGE DEAL when ordinarily it wouldn’t be, and that’s when the really awkward friendship began. It was so hard for these two to take the step, do the hard thing, and talk to one another – their families were crushed and bruised by the big disastrous event…yet they did it anyway, followed by the story, the story, the one-liners, really great writing by this author, some great scenes, sigh sigh, aaaannndd scene. LOVE LOVE LOVE. But it’s also not only the romance that I loved.
The structure is alternating points-of-view between Abram and Juliette, short little pieces of their interactions and inner dialogue (I laughed so often!). I loved the way I could see both perspectives on the same thing, events, etc. because these two are really completely different, total opposites. BUT THAT’S OKAY. Sometimes life and love and everything like it happen that way – sometimes people that are totally different come together for friendship or love, and it just works. Abram was so easy to me, so easy to read, I just adored pretty much everything about him. Loved his relationship with his mother and his aunt. Such a patient young guy, but I know from my own experiences that a life that throws unexpected curveballs can sometimes bring out the calmer, quieter traits and qualities in people. Juliette was a little tougher to me, but only because she’s really a tough cookie. I understand it! She’s been through something awful, and she’s left with a ton of unresolved feelings about it, and she has no one that she can talk to because — she’s almost a caretaker for her father, who is also reeling from the fallout. Again, a life with unexpected curveballs can often bring out the other side of a person – I know this too. Grief is hard! So I can see where Juliette comes from and I have some patience for her character, not as much as Abram, but enough to see that these two help each other out and YES, that’s what friends do – support one another. They really GET one another, and I loved how the author infused humor into this book to bring that out. (I peeped on some of Author Jay Clark’s profile info – there is so much of the author in this book, which I love.)
For this to be such an unconventional little story, it’s such a huge story. It’s a huge dose of happy, which is something I personally need in my life. I need a book that I can grab off of my shelves and smile, guaranteed. I love that I can laugh out loud at so many great one-liners that are tucked-away in there. I love that I now have a second-copy so that I can underline and highlight and star favorite passages, because YES I WILL BE DOING THAT ASAP. For me, this book is a big, big deal, and it is for a combination of reasons. YA contemporary can be real-life-happens stories with slowly-developing romance that doesn’t fit into one particular mold, and it can be awesome. World, I present to you Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark.
Issues: Addiction, Grief