We were fortunate enough to get an e-ARC of The Boyfriend App and absolutely fell in love with it!
Here's hoping you'll love this book as much as we do!
Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: April 30th 2013 by Balzer & Bray
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss
Amazon/ IndieBound/ Book Depository
The first thing you need to know about The Boyfriend App, is that it's not strictly a contemporary YA book.
Yes, all of the elements of a contemporary YA are there. It takes place in a contemporary setting; there aren't any supernatural elements; and the main character doesn't have any supernatural powers.
However, there is a strong hint of magical realism in the book. Ordinary people are able to do extraordinary things, in unexpected ways. And as a result, this turns what might have been an ordinary YA love story, into a fun, adventurous read.
Things that worked:
* Audrey's inner strength. Even when she's unsure of her place in the social hierarchy of Harrison High, Audrey's confident in her abilities as a computer programmer/hacker. Her quiet determination is a joy to watch, and a definite change from the female protagonist who are just unsure of themselves, period.
* Audrey's friends. I love the fact that Audrey has a group of steady, reliable friends. Even if they're not the "cool" gets, the "Trogs" are confident in who they are and what they can do. It's an awesome moral for YA readers.
Also, Adrian officially has the best. bumper. sticker. EVER.
* Audrey's relationship with her cousin, Lindsey. Like Zoe and Jess in How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True, Audrey's steady, loving relationship with Lindsey was a joy to read. I loved the idea of Audrey always having a family member in her corner, during the toughest times of her life.
Even when they're not getting along, you still know that Lindsey and Audrey have each other's back.
* An active parental/adult presence.
A lot of the time, adults are hard to find in a YA book. The adults at Harrison, Audrey's mom, and Nigit's Dad, all have active presences, and totally enhance The Boyfriend App. I liked seeing that Audrey's mom took an active interest in her life. I loved the fact that Ms. Bates and Mrs. Condor comes to the rescue, when Audrey's facing her darkest hour.
* The writing/plotting.
For a debut novel, Katie Sise has proven to be incredibly adept at writing and plotting. She manages to include a ton of technical detail about programming/hacking/designing into the initial chapters of the book, while keeping the story moving along in a way that is entertaining and diverting.
She also manages to incorporate Audrey's back story about her Dad with an incredible amount of detail, without making it sound like an info dump.
In general, there's a lot of detail in this book, which brings the book's setting to life - from Lindsey and Audrey driving past Nortre Dame students, to the weather, to Audrey hearing strands of Notre Dame fans cheering out the window.
* Racial and sexual orientation diversity.
This falls into the Sise-is-excellent-at-detail category. She manages to incorporate a very diverse cast of characters, including multi-cultural characters and characters of all sexual orientations into the story, like it's nothing at all. It made my reading of the book far richer. More YA authors should
I especially liked finding out that two of the adult characters used to be in a relationship. It's basically a one-sentence, throwaway detail, but I just liked the fact that it's no big deal.
Things to consider:
I've seen several reviews state that they found the "twist" in the second half of the book to be unbelievable, and that it derailed from their overall enjoyment of the book.
While I agree that the twist in the second half was unexpected, I don't think that it takes away from a person's ability to enjoy the book at all. The twist, as some may call it, is really just a dose of that aforementioned magical realism in a contemporary setting.
Think of it this way: the book is essentially an episode of Saved By the Bell or Buffy.
(Yes, I just totally dated myself with those references).
Or, it's like Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred of Years of Solitude.
People can do unrealistic, impossible, virtually magical things, but it doesn't take away from the fact that the book is, at its heart, a study of human nature. The magical realism elements just help enhance your reading of the story.
Keep that in mind when you read the book, and I can guarantee that you won't be bogged down by the twist.
Things that didn't work/Things that could have been explored:
That being said...
If I wasn't viewing the book with that magical realism eye:
* I would have been curious/interested in seeing Sise explore any residual problems that Audrey might have had with the boys who were swayed by the second BFA. The book sort of glosses over the subject, but the boys were, to some extent, not completely in control of themselves.
Shouldn't they be at angry at Audrey, for inventing something that controlled them? Or are they so influenced by the chemical effects of BFA, that they don't really care?
Outside of the twist:
* I was a little surprised by just how mean Blake and her friends are in the book. There are several instances where Blake and her friends resort down to physical violence to get their way, and people just sort of hand wave their actions away.
Even in the most cinematic-esque of settings, Blake and Co's actions didn't seem entirely believable. I did get distracted wondering:
1) why Blake is so nasty - we're offered some possible explanations for her temper, but nothing that would fully explain the degree of behavior that she chooses to exhibit.
2) why someone didn't do something to punish her. We're led to believe that the Dawkins family is incredibly well-connected, and that's why no one speaks up.
I would argue that unless Blake's dad is paying off every police officer in the South Bend area, law enforcement would havesomething to say about Blake and her friends physically attacking people.
However, that being said, it has been awhile since I've been in high school, so this may be realistic of what high school students are experiencing these days.
(I certainly hope not, though!)
The Boyfriend App is a fun, entertaining book, which makes you think about the impact that well-crafted technology can have on daily life. It's a book with strong silver screen potential, and I would love to see it as a film in the future.
Recommended for fans of Maureen Johnson - especially her more comedic books; Holly Smole, Sarah Strohmeyer, Jessica Brody and Meg Cabot.
Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by HarperCollins via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! :D