I liked this -- a lot -- but I thought the first half was stronger than the second. I really loved the character development throughout. Jessie and her brother Barrett are sort of etched in my brain now and I wish I knew them in real life. Julie Halpern, who is a local writer, did such a great job of creating this really insightful and quite complex, but also very vulnerable character who seemed so incredibly real. I thought her observations were often funny and very honest. And I thought the storytelling was so fluid that it often felt like I was there, watching her and her friends/family interact.
I thought the friendship dilemma that drove much of the first half of the book was very real and I was interested, as a reader, to see how Jessie would solve a problem that, I think, all of us have faced at some point. I found it really easy to make connections to Jessie's experiences, even though I am 10 years out of high school. I loved Barrett and I was glad they actually had a great relationship, even though that didn't always seem realistic.
I was a bit less interested in the book once the D&D crowd became her friends because I felt like it became much more predictable at that point. With Bizza and Char I really didn't know what was going to happen. Once Dottie & Co. showed up I kind of had the remaining plot and resolution drafted in my head. It's not that I didn't like Dottie or Henry but I just didn't feel very connected to them. I wish the writer had gone through one more round of revisions with the second half -- I think it could have easily been better and stronger.
I picked out this novel at a local bookstore simply because the cover caught my eye. Then the title. Then the little summary on the inside flap. And then I read the first paragraph. It's catchy. It's really well written. Halpern is totally a new favorite writer of mine. I just wish the second half of the book had been a bit less predictable!