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Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park - Review

Flat-Out Love - Jessica Park

I admit, the only reason I read Flat Out Love was because it was this month pick of my book club BookCirle. I would have never picked it up since I find the German title sounds childish and the cover not very attractive. But in the end I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

 

The book is about “Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of the Watkins family’s Boston house. When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.” (Goodreads)

 

I enjoyed the beginning of the book very much. I had discovered that I really like stories about Freshman College when main characters enter the “adult-world” and find their way around campus. So the beginning of Flat-Out Love played exactly into this. Unfortunately, the story soon focused on the family dynamics. While I still enjoyed that - because the family is just a huge mess - I was disappointed that the college experience was completely ignored.

 

Like I said the story focuses on the characters. We have the main character Julie, who I found kind of bland. Beside her tainted relationship to her father there was nothing interesting about her. She is pretty, but not too much, smart, but not too much, kind, but not too much. Everything about her is just very, very perfectly ordinary.

 

The Watkins parents drove me nuts. They were nice and all, but they completely failed as parents. Matt, the one brother who is an MIT student, was kind of interesting but I found his character not very thought through. On the one hand he was supposed to be this nerd who is socially awkward, but on the other hand he was always socially perfect and self-confident when it fit the author’s mood. Somehow those two sides of him didn’t fit together.

 

Then there is Finn, the older brother and love interest of Julie. He seems like a dream guy. Good looking, smart and fun to be around. So to me the hardest part were all the facebook posts and email exchanges. I don’t like reading those. I can’t build a connection to characters through that.

 

The most interesting character in this book is Celeste who carries around a cardboard cut-out of her brother Finn. From the beginning the reader can tell that something has happened in this family and trying to figure out what it was, is what carries the story. There were many moments in this books where I thought, that everyone was just ignoring and tolerating behaviors and obvious malfunctions just to keep the secret hidden. That was something I really did not like.

 

At the end I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought. It is a light, quick read. I think most readers will guess the secret sooner or later but it is still an enjoyable book.