Saturday, April 4, 2020

Book Review: It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood

Her senior year, Natalie's parents announce they're getting a divorce. But what really knocks her back is that they're been separated--but living under the same roof and Natalie didn't suspect a thing--for ten months. No fights, no yelling, nothing. Natalie is incredulous and also wondering why they're divorcing if everything is so amiable. Recently her two best friends, Zach and Lucy have starting dating, leaving her feeling a bit like the odd man out in their threesome. So when Zach's older brother's friend invites her to go to a party, she says yes.

It's horribly uncomfortable. She hates parties. Everyone's a lot older. She can't find Owen or Alex and locks herself in the bathroom for twenty minutes. While eventually she comes out and the boys arrive, she quickly figures out that Owen is a dolt, despite being incredibly cute. But Alex, Zach's brother, keeps an eye on her at the party, and she starts to wonder if there's something there.

But she just can't believe it. Why would any cute guy be interested in her? Natalie's self-esteem was destroyed in her early teens when cystic acne destroyed her face and her back and her opinion of herself. After years of doctor's appointments and creams and ointments and pills, it's finally, barely under control. But the scars are permanent. And most of them are not on her skin, but in her soul. I did find this to be an interesting condition which I know affects a lot of people. My husband has some acne scarring, and two of my three siblings had acne bad enough that it required powerful medication to resolve. I'm sure tons and tons of teens will appreciate having a protagonist who goes through this and has come out the other side--but with life-long side effects.

The book doesn't follow a lot of the traditional teen romance tropes, but it was incredibly enjoyable. Not despite that, but largely because of that. Natalie is used to being the funny one, but her role has changed within her friend group and her family, and she's not sure who she is anymore, or how to act. The uncertainty makes her sharper than usual and she can be antagonistic and push people away. She has to learn how to be herself again, and who that is. And how to be a good friend, a good daughter and--dare I say it? A good girlfriend even.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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