Author Info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Buy the Book: Amazon | The Book Depository
My Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Rose Zarelli has big plans for sophomore year—everything is going to be different. This year, she’s going to be the talented singer with the killer voice, the fabulous girl with the fashionista best friend, the brainiac who refuses to let Jamie Forta jerk her around...
... but if she’s not careful, she’s also going to be the sister who misses the signals, the daughter who can only think about her own pain, the “good girl” who finds herself in mid-scandal again (because no good deed goes unpunished) and possibly worst of all... the almost-girlfriend.
When all else fails, stop looking for love and go find yourself.
Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend by Louise Rozett is a perfect example of a sequel that successfully improves upon the previous book. The aspects that I disliked in Confessions of an Angry Girl were mostly absent here; the aspects that I loved were further expanded upon and I was still surprised at the new twists and turn of events that developed the story in a satisfying way. Despite having mixed feelings towards the first book, I’m extremely glad that I gave the Confession series a second chance as this book significantly felt more realistic in terms of the plot and characters. Rozett is no doubt an engaging storyteller who can effortlessly put us into the shoes of a 15 year old teenager and I would whole-heartedly include this book as one of my favourite YA contemporary reads this year.
"As Mike struts around checking the beer level of the bottomless red plastic cups that were given only to the prettiest freshman girls when they skittered through the tiki-torch gauntlet, Matt Hallis and the rest of the swim thugs are lined up on the edge of the pool like a fitting squad."
From the very beginning, I was immediately reminded of the frustrating high school stereotypes and clichés that were previously prevalent in the first book. We find the main character in the middle of a high school party as she witnesses even more bullying and hazing rituals. However instead of cheerleaders, the award for the biggest douchbags of the year now goes to the jocks from the swim squad, or “swim thugs” as Rose likes to mentally call them. Unsurprisingly, they are dumb, drunk, homophobic and downright dangerous sophomores as they gang up upon the new gay character called Conrad.
"The cups nail the freshman like a spray of bullets, and he staggers backward, arms pinwheeling as he tries to cope with the beer in his eyes and mouths. He missteps and falls into the water on his back. The thugs cheer as loafers pop up and float on the pool’s surface."
Rozett’s writing style has really started to grow on me ever since reading Confessions of an Angry Girl. The ridiculousness of these teenagers’ behaviour is emphasised through the use of VERY colourful language that portrays them as larger than life caricatures. Cheerleaders "screech" and have a "fake butter voice", with their lines filled with “like” and “totally”. They are literally "straight out of a nightmare”, “bouncing around" with pom poms. The swim quad doesn’t fare much better as Rose refers to them as "thuglets" and "brainless underlings". Now this is the sort of thing that would make me want to roll my eyes and tear my hair out like there’s no tomorrow. Although I strongly disliked these over-the-top clichés present in Confessions of an Angry Girl, they didn’t seem to bother me as much in this book. I think I’ve finally begun to appreciate Rozett’s satirical portrayal of high school which is reduced to a “caste system” full of gossip, politics, drama, angst and backstabbing. If it weren’t for the obvious exaggeration (or a least I hope it was intentional), I would have lost faith in every single high-schooler from the very beginning.
(I swear I will avoid quoting excessively from now on, I promise...)
Despite the initial clichés and stereotypes, what makes Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend stand out from other similar YA books set in high schools is the main character Rose Zarelli who is extremely engaging and likable. I’ve lost count of all the times where I’d written “Rose is awesome” or something similar in my notes. Her voice is very strong so a person’s reaction to this book will most likely depend on how they view Rose as a character. Personally I found her inner thoughts to be interesting to read and I absolutely loved her wry sense of humour and sarcasm. Rose is definitely far from flawless. She can be insecure, selfish, judgemental, immature, melodramatic, insensitive and seemingly devoid of a mental filter. Nevertheless despite all the stupid things she does, there is an unmistakably endearing quality to her that always makes me want to root for her no matter what. It was satisfying to see her develop and grow as a person as we can see the events in the book gradually shaping her perspective and identity.
Rozett’s portrayal of the supporting characters was also very well done. I liked how Tracey grows from the previous book and refocuses her efforts from trying to fit in with the popular cheerleaders to pursuing her interests in fashion. One of the interesting characters in this book is Conrad who turns out to be Regina’s brother. We catch glimpses of their troubled and complicated relationship and it was intriguing to see the tables turned as we watch how Regina, the antagonistic ‘queen bee’ in Confessions of an Angry Girl, reacts to her own brother being picked on. We also find out more about her relationship with Jamie and her family background, so it was refreshing to see her character being humanised and more fleshed out in this book. Speaking of Jamie, I STILL don’t get his appeal. I’m not a fan of his character so far as he always seems to be perfect/right all the time. Rose often feels very childish and stupid compared to him and I don’t think there is a healthy power balance in their relationship despite only being a few years apart.
Like the previous book, Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend deals with a lot of issues such as peer pressure, homosexuality and self-esteem issues that most teenagers can relate to. It is easy to sympathise with Rose’s desires to start afresh with a new identity, her jealousy over the friends' success, her lingering grief over her father’s death and her resentment towards her family. Drama ensures and the complications from the first book are continued and further developed here. I liked how there was a lot more depth to the characters here and it was interesting to see their different sides (especially in regards to Regina).
Overall, this is a heartfelt, coming of age story about growing up, moving past obstacles and finding one’s self (excuse the cheesiness, I usually suck at summarising books). Obviously I would recommend this book for fans of Confessions of an Angry Girl however for those who had only lukewarm feelings, I still believe it’s worth checking out. Who knows, you may also be pleasantly surprised.
An electronic advance reading copy was provided by the publisher. This did not influence my opinion in any way.