Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Dysgraphic Romance

So Much Closer
Who would move to a new city just to follow the boy you have a crush on, even though he barely knows you exist? Brooke would in Susane Colasanti's So Much Closer. A new city, a new school, and all in her senior year? Nothing can stand in the way of her love for him!

When Brooke moves to New York City, she has only one thing in mind. She wants to get Scott to finally notice her. Who cares if it means she has to ditch her friends, leave her mother behind, and move in with her absentee father who continues to ignore her even when she is under his very roof? Not Brooke. That is how much she loves Scott. Utterly and completely. It doesn't matter that he barely knows who she is.

And what are the chances that they would go to the same new school? Well, they do, and it gives them the opportunity to get to know one another. The new school is actually good for Brooke, despite her unhealthy attachment to Scott. She starts to tutor a fellow classmate who is dysgraphic and struggles to get his brilliant ideas onto paper. It gives her a chance to realize that her incredibly high IQ is a gift that she has been squandering on mediocrity and hiding for too long. She also has a chance to make a new friend. And most importantly, she falls deeper and deeper in love with New York City with each passing day. But can she win the boy she sacrificed everything for?

I hate to say it, but I had some real problems with this book, which was incredibly difficult because someone had compared this author to Dessen and Perkins, and there just aren't enough Dessen and Perkins books published to keep me satisfied. So I was excited to find a substitute while waiting for the next Dessen or Perkins, but that wasn't what I got with this book. Instead, I was really disturbed by this girl, who was a senior, dropping everything, her friends, her mom, her school, to follow a boy who didn't even know she was alive. And if that wasn't stalker enough, she would walk through his neighborhood day after day after day in the hopes of running into him. It was just creepy. Not romantic. Creepy. Add to that the fact this girl was brilliant. I am talking off the charts gifted, and she hides it. Now, I get kids being embarrassed by their smarts, but I really want a role model of a main character- a girl who can be cool AND super smart. Who rocks the genius gene with flair. Not Brooke. She is totally embarrassed to the point that she doesn't even try in classes and skates by with Cs. This has ruined her chances of going to a great college. And then she gets near perfect scores on her SATs? Why didn't anyone get to the heart of this behavior BEFORE she was ready to graduate? It was just not a quality I want to see in a main character my students are reading about. 

One thing I did like about the book was the connection to the beauty of NYC. As someone who has lived close enough to NYC for a day trip, I love what it contains but struggle with the bad parts of the city- in particular the stench. But Brooke sees the beauty in the city, especially in reclaimed structures like the High Line or rooftop gardens. It was nice to see. And my favorite part of this book was something that was so great at the beginning of the book and then ignore, sadly, for the remainder- the boy Brooke tutors is dysgraphic! Now, I teach dyslexics and dysgraphics, and I have seen a number of dyslexic characters in books, but none are really described very well, but this kid was a great representative of a typical dysgraphic- brilliant but totally unable to translate his brilliance into the written word. I was so excited to finally find a dysgraphic character, but then Colasanti ignored his dysgraphia after the first few chapters. Why? Why not run with that or not bring it up at all? It didn't make sense to me.

So, I would say this is a book for a younger student, as most young adults would find it cheesy and inauthentic. Still, I don't think I would recommend it to any of my girls, as I would rather give them Dessen or Perkins and know they have a great book in their hands. It is unfortunate because I really needed a good girlie book to read. I think I will give Colasanti one more chance, but I hope my next book by her is far better than this one. 

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