Review: Anything But Ordinary

Title: Anything But Ordinary
Author: Valerie Hobbs
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (2007)
Genre: young adult, mainstream fiction

In Their Words:
From the moment their friendship begins in eighth grade, Winifred and Bernie are individualists. A little awkward? Maybe. Quirky? Definitely. Outsiders? Yes. But does that matter to them? Not at all. They pride themselves on being different, and, after all, they have each other. Especially through the tough years of high school. College looms ahead. They send off for the same catalogs, promising never to separate. But then everything changes. . .

In Mine:
The crux off the novel surrounds Winifred’s college transformation from quirky individual to popular princess, all as she tries to fit-in with her roommates and reforge her identity. After some life-changing events, Bernie decides not to go to college, but eventually follows Winifred (now Wini) across the country to her college in California,  and tries to reawaken the girl he fell in love with.

It’s a cute story, and very neatly explores the confusing first year of college, when you’re trying to decide who exactly you are and want to be. However, it’s painfully short (only 168 pages), especially for a YA novel right now. And the book suffers for it. It could have easily used another 100 or even 150 pages. The begining is very fast and not very active. We’re mostly told about Winifred and Bernie’s early relationship, as the author tries to hurry us along to the story she really wants to tell. Things pick up once Winifred gets to college, but more time could have been spent leading up to it.

The voice of both characters is very strong, but does tend to slip into narration throughout the book, instead of keeping us actively in the moment.

Design:
I like the cover well-enough, it’s what made the book jump out at me. But at the same time, it looks a little haphazard, especially the back (what’s up with the ice cream sundae?), as if the designer was sort of just throwing things together and hoping it would look good. The model they used makes a convincing Winifred, even if they got her characteristic hat wrong (it’s supposed to have red pompoms, a very obvious detail that I’m surprised they overlooked).

The interior isn’t bad, but it feels like they were very clearly trying to make the book longer by having wide margins and lots of white space between lines. It looks ok, but it’s just on the cusp of being too much. Again, if the book had been longer, they wouldn’t have had to pad so much to get it past 150 pages.

Final Rating:
2/5. I liked the concept and characters, and there were some good moments, but it kind of fell flat.

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About Lucy

If you want to get fancy, Lucy lives in Portland, OR, and has a MA in Writing/Book Publishing, with a focus on Young Adult Literature, and a heaping disregard for literary snobbishness (she was an English Major–she’s seen and spouted her fair share). She works as a social media marketer, and has dabbled in developmental editing as a freelancer.
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