Today, I'm reviewing The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes! Some of you may know her as Fiona Paul from The Secrets of the Eternal Rose series - which was epic and amazing.
Trust me when I say, her contemporary fiction is just as good, and you want to read this book!
Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: May 20th 2014 by HarperTeen
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss
And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with, if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?
Luckily for me, HarperCollins decided to release e-ARCs ofLainey on Edelweiss - thank you, again! - so I got to read this fabulous story early!
Lainey Mitchell is a high school soccer star who has it all. She's pretty, a talented athlete, has Jason - her hot, perfect boyfriend of two and a half years, and pretty much has the perfect senior year locked in - until her boyfriend dumps her out of the blue.
But Lainey's not the type of person to take being dumped sitting down. With the help of her best friend Bianca and Sun Tzu's The Art of War, Lainey wages a campaign of stealth that results in drama, humor and unexpected new relationships, to win Jason back.
From the very first page, I absolutely adored Lainey as a character. Sure, she's prone to moments of being superficial and judgmental - her snarky observations about her fellow co-workers made me wince and laugh out loud - but that's what's awesome about her. Stokes totally understands what it is to be a high school girl with a certain set of expectations and beliefs about her high school identity and bubble, and how weird and upsetting it can be to have that taken away, after being dumped.
My love of Lainey only grew as the story progressed, when she began using The Art of War to try and get Jason back. Stokes skillfully interweaves sections and ideas from the book into Lainey's actions, including showing how Lainey's Sun Tzu-inspiried subterfuge and misdirection actually ends up bringing surprises into her life in many different ways.
I especially loved seeing how The Art of War helped Lainey's relationship with her friends evolve, especially when it came to Bianca and Micah. Bianca was obviously a great friend from the beginning, but through this entire process, it seemed like Lainey developed a stronger appreciation for Bianca's presence in her life even more.
Similarly, (the super hot) Micah starts off as someone who Lainey is mildly amused (and even offended by), but thanks to Sun Tzu, she begin to realize that he, like her, can't always necessarily be judged by what's on the outside. Stokes does a fantastic job of showing that transition between the two of them from mildly annoying co-workers, to co-conspirators - Micah also wants to get his ex back - to friends, to… something possibly more.
(I'd tell you, but I think you should read it instead!)
Bottom line: this is a great, great book with awesome characters, funny, beautiful writing that flows off the page, and a unique angle thanks to the addition of Sun Tzu.
Also, bonus points to Paula for also writing a story where the idea of family - from Lainey's actual family members, to Micah sister, to her friends - is front and center throughout the book.
It's also thoughtful book on what it means to find yourself, and to get to know who you really are, without being defined by anyone's standards or expectations but your own. There are a lot of thoughtful lessons about life, love and friendship packed into this fun story, and I strongly urge everyone to read it.
As for me - I'm thrilled about Paula's debut under her own name, and can't wait to see what else she has up her sleeve!