A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

I love Young Adult books. Whenever I go to the library, I always cruise through the teen section and see what they have to offer. And then I go home, look up the books on Amazon, and see the OTHER books that people purchased when they purchased the books that I got from the library. Yup, I love Young Adult books.

I found A Really Awesome Mess at my town library. This novel is a collaboration between Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin.

This is the story of two teens who end up at boarding school, but Heartland Academy is not one of the prestigious schools that you see in movies. It’s a therapeutic school where parents send children who are running out of options.

Emmy is most there because she cyberbullied a classmate. Of course, she only did it because he made her topless selfie go viral around their school, but that’s hardly the point. Emmy also has an eating disorder, and doesn’t think that she fits in with her family because she is adopted.

Justin also has acceptance issues. His parents are divorced, and his father ignores him. After being caught with a girl, he takes too much Tylenol. He insists that he wasn’t trying to kill himself and that he was only trying to get attention, but is that really the case? He is depressed, and often uses humor as a coping mechanism.

Justin and Emmy meet in group therapy, where they meet a ragtag group of students. They quickly learn that if they are going to succeed, they need to learn to trust each other. It’s a slow process, and at times, it gets a little silly; at one point, a rescued pig comes into the mix. But in the end, Emmy and Justin have gained a better insight into their own issues and flaws.

The book is very genuine, and the authors have written the characters with a great deal of emotional depth. Justin and Emmy are very candid about their conditions. Naturally, neither of them wants to be at Heartland, and there is definitely some resistance to the structure and rules of the program. The biggest catalyst for change comes when one of the secondary characters in the group therapy session wants to go to the state fair. The teens agree to help each other reach their goals. Some of this involves questionable behavior, like eating Emmy’s food so that she won’t have to.

This book is uproariously funny. Although things to get a little too zany at times (the whole pig stealing subplot), this is one funny book. Parents should note that there is some frank discussion of sex: at the beginning of the book, Justin is caught receiving oral sex from a girl. Nothing is glamorized or made out to be alluring or cool. The same could be said of Emmy’s frank discussion of her eating disorder. Instead, these are both teachable moments about healthy boundaries.

I would definitely recommend A Really Awesome Mess. Reform school never seemed so fun!

If you’d like to find out more, you can check the book out here:
A Really Awesome Mess

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