Despite attending the same school, Jeane Smith and Michael Lee are worlds apart. She’s prickly, refuses to submit to or even acknowledge convention, and spends more time with her online friends than anyone at school. He’s captain of the football team and keeping on top of his grades at school while being a perfect son and older brother at home.
They have never had a proper conversation before but when Michael suspects that his girlfriend might be cheating with Jeane’s boyfriend, things change. Suddenly Jeane is meeting Michael’s family, Michael is following her online and they can’t seem to stop kissing one another.
Adorkable does not look like the kind of book that I would ever in a million years pick up, let alone buy. The picking up was not my fault; I work in a bookstore and on occasion I have to pick up all manner of odious books. The buying, however, was voluntary; and due largely to the fact that I wanted something super-fluffy for a trip to the coast.
I sort of got it; but also I sort of didn’t. Adorkable is an adorkably fluffy read with some seriously wonderful ideals underlying it. When Jeane calls herself a feminist on page ten, I realised that the novel probably wouldn’t make it down to the coast with me. And it didn’t; I read it before I went.
Though Adorkable mostly pivots around the two main characters, these characters are strong and dynamic enough to support the plot without the whole premise disintegrating around them. They are also surprisingly and refreshingly different; and chapters alternately written from both Michael and Jeane’s perspectives play up the contrast. Jeane is sarcastic, witty and used to fighting for everything she has; while Michael is even-tempered and used to things coming easily to him. Compelling back-stories make both characters easy to relate to and, when they fight, they both do and say some terrible things but it’s impossible to side with either of them.
Therein lies the magic of Manning’s writing. She doesn’t simplify things by showing only one facet of situations. She shows them as they are; messy, convoluted and complex. Where Michael and Jeane’s ex’s could have been written off as malicious plot-devices; Manning humanises them. Jeane still wants to be friends with her ex because she genuinely likes him as a person and, while Michael probably won’t be close friends with his, it’s more because they have little in common than anything else. Similarly, Jeane’s neglectful parents are humanised to a point where you feel more sympathy for them than anger towards them.
Adorkable is a larger than life and laugh out loud YA romance. What makes it stand out so superbly is that the characters push this story along; not the events around them. Don’t judge this book by its cover; the cover undersells what is actually a genuinely moving story.
Adorkable – Sarra Manning
Atom Books (May 24, 2012)