Nian's Reviews > How to Ruin My Teenage Life

How to Ruin My Teenage Life by Simone Elkeles
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May 17, 08

bookshelves: 2008
Read in May, 2008

Seventeen year old Amy thinks everyone’s out to ruin her life. There’s her mother, who’d just gotten married, and is now pregnant. Her newly-acknowledged Jewish father, who’s really up for the task of grounding her and threatening to take away her cell phone privileges. Her neighbor, the mysterious Nathan who dresses like a geek and calls her Barbie because she’s “plastic” like the doll. Her best friend Jessica, who’s turning into a psychotic stalker because of her boyfriend. And finally, there’s her non-boyfriend, Avi, who’s supposed to be in military training, but a surprise has him standing in Amy’s front door. Complications.

The most irritating thing would have to be Amy’s age. For a seventeen year old, she’s incredibly stupid—not IQ wise, but which is determined by her actions. She does things that are better suited for something that can be accomplished by a fourteen/fifteen year old. You’d think a girl like her, one who’s off to college in about a year, would have better sense than to steal her father’s credit card and sign him up for speed dating, or talk like she’s a wannabe, or constantly complain about her chest size. And I mean constantly. I know age doesn’t discriminate when it comes to self-esteem, but you’d think seventeen years old would have matured a little bit and gone beyond the saggy boobs dramatics. How I see it: by the time you’re sixteen, you’re better off not wasting your breath complaining about height and measurements because it’s all old news. And I hate when old news gets repeated so many times for emphasis that it is certainly unnecessary, as we all have gotten the point how immature Amy is. Not to mention, again, how a girl like her could be so stupid.

But the stupidest thing about the character? That would be what Avi says about Amy wanting her life to be perfect. For a girl that claims to want perfection, her actions seem to contradict that very point. The Perfect Girl would not attempt to do anything without having thought loud and clear what the consequences could be. But Amy doesn’t—she just thinks of a plan and goes with it. Everyone knows that with or without a plan, there are setbacks. A girl aiming for everything to end up happily ever after will, most realistically, THINK of what could happen if things don't go smoothly as assumed. I just don’t think that’s the best way to describe Amy. She’s too meddlesome, obnoxious, and immature for me to like her. It doesn’t help that she doesn’t sound like a smart girl on paper either (both IQ and actions wise, now). Kidnapping her boyfriend by using plastic handcuffs? Very funny and original, but a little too over-the-top to fit Amy's pre-adulthood.

The entertaining bit would have to be the humor. Even though the author does a nonconsistent description of her characters, I like her humor and portrayal of Avi. But I’m afraid that’s about the best positive comment I can maintain, because everything else isn’t very good. Take Nathan, for instance. When the enigma of him is solved, I can’t help but be disappointed. Foster kid? Aunt/uncle and parents rivalry? Oh, so soap opera-ish. (And what about his aunt’s feelings? She's never mentioned again after that one encounter.) The author has played Nathan’s mysteriousness for so long throughout the book that I was waiting for something juicy to happen and all I got out of it was a lame excuse about him being a former baddie that has now transformed into a depressed/screwed up kid that admits how “I guess I’m still f*cked up” (Elkeles 198). It’s a very random throw-in of the f-curse, since he says it only once, and it’s so unlike Nathan’s attitude that I’m sure the author’s just trying too hard to get readers to connect teenagers who say the f-word. He says he’s screwed up, but I really don’t see it. He’s more of the angry type in the beginner, the exception to all stereotypes, but he somehow turns into a softie who gets teary and sisterly with Amy. Wrong, wrong path for Nathan. I mean, at least SHOW me how it happened.
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Melinda "The Perfect Girl would not attempt to do anything without having thought loud and clear what the consequences could be."

I couldn't agree more. Avi must be blind...


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