Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: The Promise of Amazing

The Promise of Amazing By Robin Constantine

Available 12/31/13

Reviewed by Honorary Sis Sarah P.

The Sisters Say: read it for the love story

Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how. 

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

Talk about “meeting cute!” Barfing on a girl’s service Reeboks isn’t the best way to make a first impression. It’s a heck of a beginning. After that, however, the fact that Wren saved Grayson’s life is not at all integral to the plot of the story.

In fact, the book stalls a bit after this dramatic beginning. It takes Wren and Grayson a few chapters to get going as friends, and then something more. The saving grace of the book is the colorful cast which accompanies them. Wren’s older brother and sister are true characters, and their life in eastern New Jersey is well drawn. The Catholic school angle is also entertaining and different from anything I’ve read recently. In much the same way, Grayson’s messier family life is also fully realized—you just cringe along with him over Thanksgiving dinner.

As the book rolls forward, Grayson becomes a credibly complicated and ultimately likable character. The pity is that this takes so long. Grayson is truly ensnared by past mistakes, and they raise the stakes for the plot to an exciting level. Did you ever notice the way the best stories are those which make you pause to ask, “how in the heck could this ever turn out okay?” This book brings you there eventually, but I’d argue that it holds its cards too tightly for the first half.

And here’s a pet peeve which I feel I should mention for the good of humanity. YA authors of the world, please stop naming all your characters Wren and Grayson! This is the third Wren book I’ve read in the past two months, and I’ve lost count of the Graysons. It’s not just me, right?

At the end of the day, The Promise of Amazing is a sexy love story between two people who need one another. Read it for the colorful New Jersey Catholic school catering hall world and amped up, angsty plot line.