Jeane Smith's a blogger, a dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand, and has half a million followers on Twitter. Michael Lee's a star of school, stage, and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie. They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can't they stop making out? This novel is about an unlikely relationship, but it's also about roller derby, dogs on skateboards, dogs on surfboards, dogs doing any form of extreme sport, old skool hip hop, riding your bike downhill really fast, riot grrrl, those boys you want to kiss but punch in the face at the same time, dyeing your hair ridiculous colors just because you can, stitch 'n' bitch, the songs that make you dance, the songs that make you cry, being a bad ass, cake, love, death, and everything in between.So before I read “Adorkable,” I’d read Sarra Manning’s two adult romances: “Unsticky,” which I fell head over heels for, and “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” which I enjoyed but which didn’t inspire quite the same enthusiasm as “Unsticky.” But they both were good enough experiences that it made me curious about Sarra Manning’s YA books, since she has quite a few out. Not exactly knowing where to start, I decided to start with her most recent YA, “Adorkable.”
The main thing I’ve noticed in Manning’s books so far is that even though her characters can drive me up the wall and completely frustrate me, I inevitably come to care for them by the end of the book. The same holds true in “Adorkable.” It took me about halfway into the book to really settle in with the characters. Up to that point, neither Michael or Jean was winning me over. Jean especially was hard for me to handle at first. She’s bossy, stubborn, argumentative, and condescending. But as I slowly got to know her and her situation better, I admired her more and more until by the end I was rooting for her. She still has all the same flaws at the end that she does in the beginning, but I couldn’t help loving her for not apologizing for who she is. Michael, for most of the book, comes off as just as boring as Jean thinks he is. Despite half the book being from his perspective, he’s not particularly memorable. But towards the end, he comes to life a little more and I liked getting a glimpse of who he is under his nice-guy persona.
The thing that kept me reading, even before I started liking the characters, was the development of Jean and Michael’s relationship. They’re complete and total polar opposites, so it was a lot of fun to watch dislike turn to lust turn to tolerance turn to friendship turn into something more. And it wasn’t all in that nice linear fashion that I just outlined either—just when you think Jean and Michael are making progress, things tend to go wrong, and even when the two of them are getting along, they tend to argue practically nonstop. So their relationship had me riveted, because I didn’t want to miss seeing if and how it would all work out between them.
I still had a few issues with the book though. The main one was that the story didn’t grab me at all until about a third of the way through. The only thing that kept me reading past that point was my previous good experiences with Manning’s other books. I also had a hard time suspending my disbelief about Jean’s life: I just didn’t quite buy that her parents would let her live by herself or that she would’ve gained quite so much internet fame. But the awesome thing about Sarra Manning is that she always gets me invested in the characters despite the imperfections of the book.
Overall, I liked “Adorkable” enough to try reading more of Sarra Manning’s YA novels. While I didn’t think “Adorkable” was a YA masterpiece or anything, I enjoyed it. Plus, it had a slightly different feel from a lot of other YA contemporaries—maybe because it’s British—that I found refreshing.
Rating 3.5 / 5