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

A Really Awesome Mess

Title: A Really Awesome Mess
Author: Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contempoary, 
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication Date: 23 July 2013 
Pages: 288
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
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. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. 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 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.
A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.

My Review:

I’ve read a few books where teens are placed in facilities and they’re not meant to be there. They complain and moan and as you get into the novel you come to realize that they truly are not meant to be there. This is not the case with Emmy and Justin in A Really Awesome Mess. Oh – they gripe about being sent to Heartland Academy, and at the start it seems like they have a legitimate claim. But then, after spending a little time with them – it’s clear that they are both really awesome messes. Emmy has spent a lifetime feeling like an outsider. As an adopted daughter from China, she has always felt out-of-place in her tall blonde family. So she diets trying to feel like appearance wise, she fits in. And the may have the slightest anger management issues when she decides to get retribution on a classmate by vilifying and humiliating them online. Justin’s depressed and engages in some very risky behaviour trying to get attention from his parents.

This dual POV novel was great at capturing angst, anger and the all round bad and slightly defeated attitude of both Emmy and Justin. They’re feeling betrayed and their pain is evident when reading their stories. I enjoyed reading their stories. And the supporting characters? Amazing. I loved the great cast and their eccentricities.

But this book is a mess (possibly the mess referred to in the title) when it comes to the romance between Emmy and Justin. It just didn’t work for me. I can’t stand when authors think that just because they’re writing for YA audiences then there needs to be a love story. The relationship between these two felt superfluous and so very out of character for both.

A Really Awesome Mess was an enjoyable read with some issues but there were a few heart-warming moments as well.

Thanks to Egmont USA and Netgalley for the digital review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Book Depository


  1. You know this is the first time I’ve realised that this would have been a stronger book without the romance? I think you’re spot on! I found them too angry as well, but maybe that’s me being ‘mature’, lol.

  2. I love that you said the supporting characters were amazing, I always love it when there’s a great full cast of characters! The concept sounds really interesting, though I agree, when an author seems to go “Let’s throw in a love story just because it’s YA!” it’s really annoying. Great review! 🙂

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

  3. Excellent review. I did add it to my to-read shelf. I do like the fact you mentioned not all YA books need a love story. That really is true and more writers should think about that. Yet, in general, a lot of books, contemporary or otherwise, do have love plots. Yet, maybe kids shouldn’t really fall in love so soon, age wise, and fast. Not sure if you read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. It was a great book, however the love story presents itself as it is “the one”. That they are soul mates, etc.

  4. I didn’t like this one a lot. I have to agree with you about the romance, it’s very forced and odd. But I didn’t like Emmy at all, I found her really annoying and just all over the place. But I’m glad you enjoyed this more than I did.
    Great review!

  5. I so want this book. I’m hoping that cash will fall from the sky so I can grab it and buy the book guilt free. Totally agree with the weird compulsion of YA authors to force romance into the story. Why????

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