Today, we're reviewing Sarah Strohmeyer's How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True. We're big Sarah Strohmeyer fans on the blog, so we were ridiculously psyched when we got the opportunity to review this ARC!
So. I tend to read a lot of YA these days, both good and bad. While all of the books I read do resonate with me at some level, not all of them make me want to go out and buy a billion copies for friends and family.
However, Sarah Strohmeyer's first YA book, Smart Girls Get What They Want, made me want to do exactly just that. I readSmart Girls right before Christmas, and I ended up buying multiple copies as Christmas gifts for almost everyone I knew.
(Including my boyfriend. Boy, was he confused on Christmas Day.)
Smart Girls was fun, extremely well-written and clever, with an extremely likable protagonist and a wonderful message. And I'm totally pleased to say that Strohmeyer's sophomore YA book,How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True, lives up to the brilliance of her first book.
The summer before their senior year, Zoe Kiefer and her cousin Jessica "Jess" Swynkowski score internships at Fairyland Kingdom theme park.
They're there to join the cast of the (slightly aging, but still completely awesome) amusement park as cast members, in the hopes of winning a $25k Dream and Do grant. Both Zoe and Jess have their own needs for the grant, and both are also willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that the other one actually gets the grant.
However, like all good summer adventures, things don't really go according to plan. Instead of being cast as the hoped-for role of a fairytale princess, Zoe's assigned to be the lady-in-waiting to "the Queen", a.k.a the woman in charge of all cast/park operations.
Though Zoe gamely rises to the challenge of walking the Queen's evil lapdog at dawn, and secretly dousing the Queen with sugar to keep her sweet, various misadventures leave Zoe questioning if she has what it takes to get her happily-ever-after.
* Strohmeyer has a knack for writing smart, intelligent female protagonists. Zoe's incredibly likable from page one. She tosses back bad puns with the pro of a comedian, admits to liking incredibly trashy TV, and handles all of her Queen-related challenges/setbacks without batting an eye.
* The setting. Dude. Who hasn't wondered what goes on in an amusement park after dark? I certainly have. Fairytale Kingdom shows both the highlights and downsides of what it must be like to work in an amusement park all summer.
* The supporting characters. Like Smart Girls, Strohmeyer has created a cast of characters in Zoe who make a strong (and largely likable) impact, even if they only have one or two sentences or appearances throughout the book. Characters like Karl, Marcus and Adele all made the book more well-rounded, and far more entertaining to read.
(And I'll be honest: I would totally be friends with all of the guys in this book in a heartbeat. Except for Marcus. Though, I would keep him around for potential hilarity/the pretty.)
* The Queen. Her antics are hilarious, and it's both rewarding and entertaining watching Zoe learning how to cope with her. Zoe's go-getter spirit is such a wonderful example for teens.
* Zoe and Jess's relationship. It's not too often that you seen girls genuinely and consistently supporting each other throughout the course of a YA book. I loved the fact that they were loyal to each other regardless of what happened, and they mutually helped each other make their dreams come true.
* The writing. I cannot stress this enough. Strohmeyer's the type of writer who can make the reader laugh through one well-crafted sentence. Her jokes are fresh and funny, and will stick with you long after you've finished reading.
What didn't work:
Nothing! Except for maybe the fact that I really want a sequel to Zoe and Ian's adventures.
Also, I'm not the biggest fan of the newest/publication cover, but it's largely because I think it undersells the hilarity/profundity of Strohmeyer's writing.
The cover kind of reminds me of a Taylor Swift music video. And while there totally isn't anything wrong with appealing to that age group/crowd, I'd love to see a more universally-appealing cover. I want more people - including people my age - reading Strohmeyer's YA work, and I think the cover is key.
With her second YA book, Strohmeyer proves beyond a doubt that she's a gifted storyteller, with an acute understanding of the teenage voice. Her characters are smart, tough and intelligent young women, who should be viewed as strong role models for all readers.
Highly recommend this book for all readers, but specifically for fans of Maureen Johnson, John Green and Justina Chen.