Published by Harper Teen on May 20th, 2014
Genres: contemporary, young adult
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Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.
And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?
When I was in my junior year of high school, I was in a similar situation as Lainey. I dated a really popular guy. Pretty much the most popular guy in school. It was a small school, but still. Homecoming King, football captain, track star, president of Student Council, blah, blah, blah. He was a senior and I was a junior. He unintentionally made me popular by association. He was a really great guy, but when we broke up at the end of my junior year, my entire world was torn apart. If anyone can relate to what Lainey went through with Jason, I could.
But here’s the thing: when we broke up, it took me awhile, but I figured it out. I discovered my own identity, who I was. I joined drama club and got the lead in a play. I participated in talent shows. I did the drama club all year long and was in three plays and I had the time of my life. No, I wasn’t popular anymore, but I accepted it. I even embraced it. I know it’s not as easy for other kids to do what I did, but let’s be real. It’s not that hard. I was insecure, I got teased a bit (by a guy that I know to this day liked me but thought dating me would ruin his reputation–eyeroll), I got bullied severely in middle school, and I did okay. Eventually. It takes time.
So I guess what I am saying is, I found Lainey’s evolution as a character unrealistic. Let’s start with this quote:
“A guy who could date almost anyone picked me. With him, I felt part of something bitter. Just like with Kendall, he made me feel invincible, like things would work out for me no matter what. Once you’ve experienced that, it’s kind of hard to give it up.”
Yeah, it is, but you’ll be okay. And the fact that you spent more than half of a book trying to get a guy back who broke up with you by saying, “Sorry, dude,” makes me vomitous. Most of my friends were seniors when I was a junior. They all graduated with my ex, and I was alone. Guess who actually had a pretty awesome and memorable senior year? Me.
And then there was her supposedly smart best friend who came up with the whole Art of War idea in the first place, which was, in all actuality, pretty fucking stupid. It just didn’t work. You can’t use that book like that. It’s actually a pretty repetitive book, and most of the advice is philosophical so it’s not like it actually gives you STEPS to win. You have to interpret it. And it doesn’t work for relationships that way. But I’ll get back to that later. What I want to address is this: what kind of best friend (who’s basically a genius) would help you get back together with a monster douchebag? And she KNOWS he is a monster douchebag because she says so–so WHY? If I was dating an asshole and we broke up, my friends would be like, “You’re better off. We thought he was a dickhead anyway.” I mean, REALLY.
Other nitpicks? Why was this book so long? Why did it take so long for the plot to get going? In the beginning it was like there were scenes that were absolutely pointless and only there so the girls could pass the Bechdel test. They added absolutely nothing to the plot and only served to irritate me because it was so blatantly, blatantly obvious.
Thennnn there was a little bit of girl-on-girl hate. At one point Lainey mentions wanting to get Alex fired. Alex is the EMT that Jason broke up with Lainey for. Lainey mentions wanting to get Alex fired for stealing Jason from her. Seriously? So you want to get someone fired who is good at their job because you can’t handle the fact that you lost? What about blaming the guy? Did Jason not make the decision to CHOOSE Alex? Always the girl’s fault, amiright?
But back to using The Art of War to win back your ex. It’s sounds like a fun premise, and it seems like something that would work in a narrative, but it really doesn’t. It got repetitive, and the moves the girls made to win Jason back didn’t really come from the book at all. It just didn’t translate well, and the idea doesn’t execute. It came off repetitive and silly. I know this book was supposed to be cute and fluffy, but I expect some substance as well, and it was just all very amateurish. The Art of War parts felt really jammed in there.
The one thing I did really like was Micah. The love interest was awesome. He reminded me of several people I used to know, and I was really able to understand and relate to him because of this. But it was not only that. His voice was wholly unique and I found his personality to be really well-developed, almost as if he was based off of a real person the author knew. Maybe he was, for all I know. But even his dialogue felt individual and genuine. And so I get why there was a novella written from Micah’s point of view. I don’t know if I will be reading this, because I’m not really a novella kind of girl, but it makes sense to me.
Basically, The Art of Lainey was a fail for me on every level, except for Micah. And Lainey doesn’t deserve Micah, because at the end, I still disliked her. Maybe not as much, but her behavior was not acceptable to me and I spent a good portion of the book rolling my eyes over her stupid Jason obsession and complete cluelessness. But because I liked Micah so much, I reluctantly give this book 3 stars. I really don’t want to, however. It was incredibly weak.