Book Review: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin



Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse.

After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy both arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.


Described as having “a hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno” in Netgalley’s catalog I was thrilled when I was accepted to review this. This title had me grinning from page to page and laughing in the most inappropriate settings – but at its heart it’s not a comedy, it’s a coming of age tale filled with angst ridden teenagers.

This book was written from 2 points of view, with the romance element of this novel clearly in mind from the beginning. Emmy’s challenging relationship with her parents and her battle with anorexia were difficult for me to fathom, making me less sympathetic towards her character; she came across as overly angry and somewhat immature. I found Justin’s chapters more enjoyable.

A Really Awesome Mess chooses to confront heavy weight issues like depression but its attempts are blunt and shallow in comparison to some YA books – there’s lots of forthright ‘telling’ in early chapters (no subtle, suspenseful reveals) and as the novel progresses you are so busy focusing on its zany comedic appeal that you loose sight of the deeper stories here.

I’m not sure I was the right audience for this particular title: despite the many references to blow jobs, porn and other items inappropriate for children under sixteen it was clearly written for the teenage reader. In conclusion, A Really Awesome Mess is funny, cute and surprising, but sporting an absence of strong emotional punches.

Rating: ☼☼☼

7 thoughts on “Book Review: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin

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