I could respond to what my dear cohort said in her last post, but since I am so delightfully selective about the reality I choose to accept, I'm doing a review instead.
At the start of her junior year, Tess Whistle is a fairly sheltered girl. Her parents are strict (she's not allowed to get a driver's license, even though she lives in Idaho, where permits are handed out at fourteen), she's got a portrait of (a mysteriously blond) Jesus hanging in her living room, and she's absolutely set on saving herself for Serious Engagement. Also, she's terrified of nature (or, more to the point, terrified of the unknown). Of course, this is all before her kitchen is set on fire, her mother becomes 'born again', and both of her parents take off for an Outward Bound-type camp in the desert. This is before her best friend becomes detirmined to blow up a neighborhood poodle. This is before Ben Easter. Sheltered is soon to be the last word that could describe Tess with any accuracy.
I think that anyone who has read any substantial amount of YA fiction has read plenty of books that, upon first inspection, seem very similar to this one. The "innocent girl loses her virginity to her first boyfriend and gets her heartbroken" storyline is a familiar one, to be sure. And I was kind of hesitant to read this for that reason. However, I was really pleasantly surprised. This book actually broke down a lot of cliches, and handled a common concept in a new, intriguing way. The relationship between Ben and Tess was done beautifully. One of my favorite things about it was the way Tess wasn't totally enchanted by Ben- she actually recognized when he said something cheesy, which almost never happens in books. It's such a nice thing to see, because it's realistic. He had faults; he seemed like an actual guy, not a perfect and beautiful and witty and never-lame-ever-at-all type that I read about most of the time, and I loved him all the more for it. Also, I was overjoyed that this book strayed away from making Ben the skeezy skirt chaser who bolts after getting to the girl's pants. That made me very happy.
This book would have been pretty good if it had stuck to the Ben and Tess storyline, but the subplots were what really made it great for me. I loved Tess's crazy grandmother (who gives Tess boy-wisdom she learned from her pet monkey) and adored Zena, Tess's best friend, who is blunt and crazy and weird and awesome. I love a book with a good best friend. The writing was really nice in this as well. I can't wait to read whatever Kristin Tracy puts out there next!
4.5 cups for this one.
PS: comments make me so so so so so so happy and i need all the happy i can get right now.