Thursday, August 6, 2009
I've had Christine Marciniak's debut novel, WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA, on my mind for awhile now, but I've waited to review it until you could purchase it. Although the official release date is a bit away, Amazon say you can have it now, so I'm giving you the book review now!
Why I Read This Book: How could I not? The plot is charming, the cover is incredibly sweet, and the author's fantastic!
Five Sentence Summary: Emma's not looking for the starring role of Maria in the school's production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. She want to be Leisel and sing "When You're Sixteen" with her boyfriend. But when she's cast as Maria--and Biker Mike the school reject is cast as Captain von Trapp--she starts to question how much of their romance is for the play and how much is real...and whether someone like Biker Mike can fit into her life at all.
So, what can we, as writers, learn from this book?
[Note: As always, highlight the passage to show spoilers!]
1. A Lesson Without Being Preachy: By the end of the novel, the lesson is apparent: don't judge people by their appearances. However, there's not an ounce of preachiness in this novel--this is a lesson I can easily see a teen realizing or discovering--but it won't hit the teen over the head with morals. Kids are turned off immediately when they see the lesson in a story, but they won't see it here, they'll discover it with Emma, and that is infinitely the better way.
2. Subtle Mix of Genres: Ostentatiously a romance, WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA has a bit of everything: there's humor (don't tell Emma to break a leg!), drama (I'm still a bit mad at Emma's sister, to say nothing of her boyfriend...and was on the edge of my seat to discover how the fight with the best friend got resolved), and even theatrics (this *does* take place during a school play, after all). There's not a dull moment in the book, because it doesn't follow the tired cliches and tropes of any one genre. Even when the characters are sitting around, waiting for play practice to begin, there's still something going on--a joke, tension between characters--to keep you on the edge of your seat.
3. A Sweet Romance: I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sick of a lot of what passes for "romance" in teen literature. Too often, it's a blown-out-of-proportion wish-fulfillment obsessive infatuation...not real romance. A quick skim of my most recently read or to-read books shows vampire obsessive love/lust, werewolf obsessive love/lust, a girl obsessed with a boy that ends in death, a boy that wants to possess a girl, and so on and so on. And while that does appeal to teens, it's not typically something they can *relate* to. The love in WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA is real. From the idealistic Emma who wants to sing "When You're Sixteen," to the somewhat opportunistic boyfriend, to Biker Mike's self-awareness, the romance presented is both very realistic and charmingly sweet. Spoilers: It will come as no surprise to readers that Mike is the better man for Emma, and the man she ultimately chooses--but the fact that Mike sticks up for himself, at the potential cost of being with Emma, and that Emma must has her own bias and prejudice in order to win back Mike, makes this romance even more real. This is not obsessive love/lust--this is a scenario that could perfectly well happen in high school, and one that every teen I know can identify with.
Quibbles: My only quibble is a spoiler: but I sure wish Emma had thrown some punches at Trevor! I was rooting for a brawl! But that's more of my character, not Emma's ;)
The Bottom Line: The perfect back-to-school book, one that will leave you smiling and happy, but one that's not so sickeningly sweet that there's no substance to it.
Don't forget! Christine has agreed to answer your questions about WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA and what it's like to be a debut novelist! Answers are coming tomorrow!