Monday, October 29, 2012

Rumors and Candidness Bring Keplinger to the Top

Do you remember the unfortunate girl in high school who carried the nickname "slut"? If you think back really hard, can you remember a shred of truth to those rumors? Did anyone actually know for a fact they had happened? Most likely not, and in Kody Keplinger's third novel, A Midsummer's Nightmare, we see a candid portrayal of a girl who starts off wearing that label like a badge of honor and eventually finds a little soul searching is all she needed to get to the root of her choices and actions.

Whitley suffers through each school year in order to make it to the summer- her only time with her father. Now that she has graduated, this summer is even more exciting. It is a chance to hang out with her dad, make cocktails, and relax, as opposed to the misery of living with her mother where her mom ignores her most of the time and only acknowledges her existence to complain about her father. At her last big graduation party, Whitley gives in to her drunken state and meets a guy who she wakes up next to the next morning. He was fun, and certainly good looking, but she is moving on from this place, and she doesn't plan on looking back.

When she gets to her father's place, she quickly realizes things have changed. He moved out of his condo and into a house, and he is engaged. For her father, who goes through girlfriends so fast Whitley doesn't even bother to learn their names, this is a huge development. But even worse, her dad's fiance has two kids. And despite the odds, that new stepbrother-to-be just happens to be the boy from the party the week before! As if things couldn't be any worse, Whitley is now going to be related to her latest hookup.

To drown her miseries in this fresh hell she has found herself in, Whitley submerges herself in the local parties and the local nameless boys. She doesn't care what their names are or who they are because they are just a good distraction, but when that distraction starts to have consequences, Whitley starts to see the ugly side of her reputation. She used to just enjoy the perks of all the male attention it garnered, but now the attention has gotten ugly, and borderline scary. But the one man she wants to notice her has no problem ignoring her for the entire summer- her father. And nothing she has done has gotten his attention. Yet.

This is the third book I have read by Keplinger, and I continue to be amazed by her candid writing style that puts the BS aside and focuses on the topics young adults really want to talk about. She isn't afraid to say things adults might be taken aback by or uncomfortable with, because her books aren't for adults- they are for the same teens they are written about. I find it a beautifully honest way to write and applaud Keplinger for sticking to her target audience with brutal honesty. I am sure most people will say these books are appropriate only for older teens because of the sexual content and alcohol use, but I challenge that premise by saying it is a candid picture of teen life that might make some teens think twice or at least encourage them to think differently about their lives and the lives of the people around them.

This book dealt with some hard situations, but the idea of being labeled a slut and publicly humiliated via social media was hard to bear witness to. Therefore, it should make you, the reader, uncomfortable. And the idea of a girl acting out, resorting to alcohol and bad decisions with boys to get her absentee parents to acknowledge her existence? That is the hardest thing to watch because you know how often it happens. Whitley certainly has a chip on her shoulder, and her selfishness is hard to reconcile with, but she is just the kind of flawed heroine we find ourselves relating to. This is another important book from Keplinger that tells the stories you might be too uncomfortable to tell to your teenaged girl. Keplinger isn't afraid to say what everyone is thinking, and I am grateful to have her books out there in the YA universe because of that fearlessness.

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