Ingrid Bell and her five teenage cousins are such a close-knit group that they don’t really mind sitting at the kid table—even if they have to share it with a four-year-old. But then Brianne, the oldest cousin, lands a seat at the adult table and leaves her cousins shocked and confused. What does it take to graduate from the kid table?
Over the course of five family events, Ingrid chronicles the coming-of-age of her generation. Her cousins each grapple with growing pains, but it is Ingrid who truly struggles as she considers what it means to grow up. When first love comes in the form of first betrayal (he’s Brianne’s boyfriend), Ingrid is forced to question her own personality and how she fits into her family. The cousins each take their own path toward graduating into adulthood—only to realize that maybe the kid table was where they wanted to be all along.
This book had a lot of potential to it. The story of six teenagers still stuck at “the kid table”, trying to grow up and move past it? It may seem simplistic and idiotic to some, but I thought it was actually pretty cool. In the beginning, what drew me to this book was the cool cover.
What really threw me off was how much this book missed the mark.
I know of a few huge families. I mean–it seems fun. Being a kid with a few siblings, but also a ton, and I mean a TON of kid cousins. Besides how it’s cool having all the different adults in your family, cousins are really great. And I thought this book would have some of that nice, comfortable family feel to it.
Eh. Kind of. Not really.
In some moments I could really feel it, but in some moments it felt practically nonexistent. After a while, I just didn’t like the way the book was going. Sure, it was interesting. The concept and all. I especially liked the way all the kids pursued their own way of getting to the adult table, and it was fun to see the way Ingrid went this way and that.
This book just feels weird. Off. The characters? They don’t seem all the way “there”. What I mean by that is, they don’t seem real. If Andrea Seigel had written this book in 2014 instead of in 2010, I think it would’ve really helped her to see the way Jennifer Castle did her characters in You Look Different in Real Life. I can see some of Rory’s framework in Cricket. I could see some of Nate in Micah. Though it’s fainter than Rory in Cricket and Nate in Micah, I can see parts of Felix in Dom. And Justine in Katie, as well as Keira in Brianne. If Andrea Seigel had studied the framework and characters of Felix, Nate, Rory, Justine and Keira, it would have really improved her characters in this story.
Another reason why I didn’t like the characters, despite the fact that they felt just like characters and not like people, is because they didn’t have their own voices. Every single one of them, Felix, Nate, Rory, Justine and Keira, had their own voice. And Jennifer Castle backed them up by making sure that they all had time, at least one turning point in the story, that the reader would be sure that you heard their voice. Their motivation. And she did it well. In those moments, Jennifer Castle showed you their motivation, their weaknesses, their strengths and who they were as characters. That’s really important, and I feel like Andrea Seigel would’ve really benefited from learning from that.
I could see this turned into a TV show. Honestly, I know that the beginning would be a little weird, but this could be really interesting. I thought the overall plot of the story was a little weird, but the ending was satisfying and the drama was not so bad that I felt like not reading the book–though it was there.
And the romance between Trevor and Ingrid? I thought that was just awkward for most of the book, which I didn’t appreciate because it let the story down. The romance between Justine and Nate was not perfect by far, but it was well measured and didn’t make me feel uneasy. I thought that the romance between both sets of these characters turned out okay, but Justine and Nate’s was far more satisfying.
All in all, I would go for Jennifer Castle if you want to read a book like this. The ideas are great, and if you want the book for it’s ideas, be my guest. It’s amusing, but definitely not my kind of book, especially because it’s not a plot or a character based story. If you’re looking for the more satisfying and well-done read, I would go with YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE. 2 stars for this book.
pg count for the hardback: 320
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