I hope you East Coasters are staying warm - I keep seeing weather alerts for you guys!
I'm reviewing Being Sloane Jacobs today, and it's an absolutely fantastic YA with heart, love and friendship!
Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: January 7th 2014 by Delacorte
Format: Physical ARC via publisher
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.
When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.
Luckily for me, Random House kindly sent me over an ARC and I absolutely devoured this book in one sitting. This is a book with friendship, family and a lot of heart, and I can't wait for all of you to read it!
Things that worked:
From the start, Sloane Emily and Sloane Devon absolutely won me over.
Even though Morrill makes it very clear from the start that both girls are from two very different worlds, she also does a great job of emphasizing how they've both been similarly suffering from the weight of unwanted expectations and parental pressures. So when it comes time for both girls to make the decision to switch, it almost feels like a natural extension of their mutual desire to run away from their lives.
As the girls settle in to each other's summer camps, Morrill shows, through the effective use of alternating POVs, how both girls start off the summer with biases about their lives and of each other, but are gradually changed through the people they meet, and the sports that they practice.
While I sympathized more with Sloane Emily's personal family situation and the obstacles she faced at camp, I have to confess: I loved watching Sloane Devon's transformation. I liked seeing Sloane D.'s realization that just because Sloane Emily is rich, Sloane E. isn't perfect, and being girly or effeminate doesn't necessarily mean it's being weak - because that's absolutely something I can relate to!
Also, I loved how both girls grew over the summer, where they could both trust their relationships with their moms more. This hit very close to home for me, and I applaud Morrill's take in both situations.
The romance factor:
Both Sloane Emily and Sloane Devon have their own opportunities at romance over the course of the summer, in the forms of Matt and Nando, respectively.
Morrill writes both boys with plenty of charm, humor and spunk, but also doesn't forget to remind readers that cute boys doesn't necessarily mean perfect boys. Matt has to deal with rumors about past indiscretions, while Nando has to cope with his own history of insecurity.
I loved how both boys admitted that they - like the Sloanes - had a lot of things to work on, but still weren't shy about still living their lives and accepting the girls for who they were. Morrill had them interact with the Sloanes in a way which will undoubtedly make readers think, "Hey, this relationship is good for you," something that isn't always true for YA romances.
The writing and world-building:
I'm not a figure skater nor do I play ice hockey, but Morrill wrote about both sports in a way which not only made it easy for me to understand, but also had me invested and immersed in those two worlds.
I could absolutely understand why people would be willing to give up huge chunks of their time (if not their lives) to either sport, and how that level of competition and fanaticism could also feel suffocating for people like Sloane Emily and Sloane Devon.
On an unrelated note, Morrill also has me totally hyped up for the Olympics now.
Without giving spoilers away, I thought that the ending for both of the girls was perfect. It showed growth, resolve and a sense that things were only going to continue to get better for both girls, and that they were on the right track to happiness.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
But at the same time, I can't deny that the acceptance by both sets of parents, definitely adds to the heart of the book. This is very much a story about the two Sloanes growing up over the course of the summer, and the parental acceptance seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that both girls have grown up, and are now being treated as adults by those who've refused to do so before.
I highly recommend Being Sloane Jacobs to fans of contemporary fiction, but I also recommend the book to readers who've idly wondered what it would be like if they temporarily switched lives with someone else, and how different it would be.
Lauren Morrill has the answer for you, and you'll love her for it.