Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Flat-Out Love

Flat-Out Love, by Jessica Park. The GoodReads summary:
Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it.

When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side ... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that ... well ... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.
I’d heard a lot of good things about this book, and boy was everyone right. It’s a solid book--honestly. Not only does it have the romance I need to get me through a book, but it has real substance too. I think with the plot of this book, it could’ve easily turned into a cliché, fluffy book. But it didn’t, and I’m so glad for that.

The characters were amazing. They all felt so real. My favorite by far was the little sister, Celeste. That is one awesome and brave kid. Messed up and eccentric, yes--but thoroughly entertaining and loveable at the same time. Flat Finn takes second place in my favorite character line-up. I’m not sure how an inanimate object (he's a cardboard cutout) can be so awesome, but he (it?) really, really is. Julie, the main character, is quite likeable. I like how she constantly reaches out to Celeste and Matt and their parents, and how kind and giving she is. The only hang up I have about her is her constant butting into the family’s business. It all works out in the end, and she has the best of intentions, but I couldn’t help thinking sometimes that it really wasn’t her place to push them all that hard to resolve their issues.

This book was surprisingly involving considering there’s not much action in the plot. The book pretty much completely revolves around the Watkin family’s drama, but I honestly didn’t notice the lack of storyline until I started thinking about it for this review. The mystery behind why the family’s all so messed up is totally engrossing, to say the least. I did guess what the family secret was and the truth behind the Matt-Julie-Finn-Celeste relationship from the very beginning, but all the same, I enjoyed the journey to Julie finding it out.

Overall, I think this is a fantastic contemporary YA. I think some aspects could use some polishing, but it ended up being everything I wanted from a book at the moment. I’ll definitely read anything else by this author.

Rating: 4 / 5


  1. A book doesn't really need a breakneck plot for it to be great. Sometimes the eclectic characters are enough. I just hope the big reveal is not something odd like Julie being a part of the family. That would be creepy!

  2. i like that this one is set in the college age! I think I'm going to need to check it out.

  3. Jessica Park has put out a YA novel that pushes the boundaries. Instead of another vampire book, she chose to treat us to a look at a uniquely dysfunctional family. Absorbing reading for any student of psychology, or just humanity in general; this book explores what happens when you drop a stranger into a family who is adept at covering up their past pain - to the point of denying it. As Julie looks for the answers to the strange behavior around her, and the family struggles with her search for those answers, healing and acceptance of past trauma slowly happens.


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