Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review: Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom

Ditched: A Love Story
by Robin Mellom
January 10, 2012
Disney/ Hyperion
288 pages
Source: Won from Badass Bookie

Synopsis


High school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her. Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom. And then ditched her. (Taken from Goodreads.)















Opening Line

I don't know how I ended up on the side of Hollister Road, lying in this ditch.

My Take On It


Ditched: A Love Story released only a week or so after I started this blog and I thought it looked like fun read. I had read a couple of interviews with author Robin Mellom and really liked her. She's from the South (like me), she's the daughter of two teachers (I'm the daughter of one teacher), and she has a fondness for sweet ice tea (affirmative.) So when I entered a giveaway for Ditched and won, I was pretty excited. But as I started reading I realized immediately that this book, and Robin Mellom's voice, was something special.

You may have heard me say it on this blog before, but I grew up in the 80s. My teen years were spent watching movies like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful. The John Hughes Classics, as I like to call them. During the 90s, while in my twenties, I might have graduated to Singles and Reality Bites, but I will always have a place in my heart for those angsty high school dramas and comedies I grew up with. Reading Ditched: A Love Story was like watching my favorite teen movie all over again. All the elements are accounted for: the angst- ridden protagonist Justina; the unattainable guy Ian, who in this case is also her best friend; and an assortment of scene-stealing secondary characters that had me laughing out loud and wearing a permanent grin while reading.
      
So who is this Justina girl? Well she's "that girl from the party." You know the one. The girl who is always seen making out with a new guy every time someone throws a keg party. Since her freshman year, Justina, and best friend Hailey, have been making the rounds kissing every available (and sometimes not available) guy they can. It's become a game to them, a game they both really enjoy until their reputations begin to catch up. After Justina is caught kissing not one, but two different guys at one party (SCANDALOUS!), she decides to to make some changes. No more kissing until she meets the one. The problem is, she meets him, becomes best friends with him, and then can't find a way to tell him how she feels. A golden opportunity presents itself in the form of the prom. Ian and Justina agree to go, probably just for a laugh, and Justina knows that the moment has come. She's going to tell Ian everything, and she's going to break that kissing drought in a big way. As you might imagine, a comedy of errors ensues. Doesn't this already sound like a script for a teen comedy? Well, it's gets better.
     
At the story's start Justina has found herself ditched, or to be more accurate, lying in a ditch and wondering how things went so wrong.  After trudging to a nearby convenience store, Justina begins to tell her tale, first to Gilda, a sympathetic cashier, and then to customer Donna who's dropped by to visit. The story is told in a unique way. See Justina somehow let her mother talk her into wearing a hideously retro 80s blue satin prom dress (I can vouch for the hideousness, because I have a couple of them of my own shoved to the back of my closet at home) with dyed to match satin pumps (yes, we did actually dye our shoes AND force our dates to wear matching cumber buns and ties.) She even has a matching corsage AND watch, thus completing the awful ensemble. See the dress on the cover? That would be it. And this dress holds all the keys to what happened to Justina over the course of the night. Justina begins to tell her story using the road map of stains and rips on her dress to guide her. It's a really clever device, and I think Robin Mellom scored a win in relating the story this way.
     
I like Justina, I have plenty of empathy for her and I find her to be pretty funny as well. I want her to get the guy in the end, and I enjoyed her voice as she flashbacks to the events of the previous night. In many ways she is the epitome of a teenage high school girl. Her voice is authentic, from the self doubt and lack of confidence, especially when it comes to Ian, to her crazy and sometimes reckless decisions. But I never found her overly annoying and I understood from the start that this book was going to be outlandish, just like many of my fave teen flicks are.
    
 I also like Ian,  even though we only know him from Justina's recounting and he doesn't make an appearance in real time until the book's end. I thought he had Justina had a cute thing going, and I like the flirty scenes between them.
     
     Months went by. We were friends and then even better friends. We carpooled. We shared history notes. We drove around and screamed AC/DC songs. Then we talked about the important things.
    "Seriously, Lay's are the best," I'd say.
    "Ruffles, you goof."
    "Texture?"
     "Yeah," he'd say. "There's something there. Something to hold on to."
     "So you don't like flat things?" I'd wiggle my chest, strangely unafraid around him to be proud of my less-than-impressive- humps.
     "Are we comparing chips to the female form?"
     "I don't know." I'd squint my eyes. "Are we?"
     "Yes, Justina. That makes perfect sense. I only eat Ruffles because they make me think of girl's breasts, and I'm the type guy to base my food preferences on girly parts. I prefer grapefruits to apples you know."
     "And the truth comes out."
     We always teetered on the edge of flirtation--delicately dipping our toes in, but never fully plunging. That was the best part of our friendship, the unsaid part--the playful looks, the teetering, the toe-dips.

Sigh. Been there, done that.  Toe-dip. I love that, and Mellom references it several times throughout the story, inserting it at the perfect moment and always bringing a smile to my face.


So the MC and the romantic interest are all good. But you know what? This book would not have been nearly as much fun had it not been for some of the co stars.


And now, in honor of all the awesome secondary characters found in Ditched: A Love Story, I present a photo montage:


First off, Ditched features those classic stuck-up, popular, mean girls in the form of Allyson and Briana. When they aren't ridiculing Justina about her unfortunate prom ensemble, they are, at best, distracting Ian, or at worst, moving in on him altogether.





Source

or if you prefer:



Source


Next, Gilda and Donna, the convenience store ladies. I like Gilda, but I LOVE Donna.  Remember Shirley McLaine's character "Ouisa" from Steel Magnolias?


Here she is:

Source


That's Donna. I absolutely cracked up at some of her observations as Justina spun her tale:


     "Let me tell you a little something about Donna Kramer."

       I scratch at my hand--I always get itchy when people refer to themselves in the third person.
      She widens her stance, like a football coach. "First of all, I don't see the world, I stare it down like a lion does a helpless baby antelope. I wait and watch and pounce when I need to. Ya gotta stare the world down, doll. And by world I mean men. You know that right?" 
     I start to give her an answer, but she doesn't really want one.
    "See, you gotta figure 'em out. Study them."  Donna paces the floor in front of the counter. "Question them. Fill in the blanks. Make assumptions. Otherwise, you're left in a ditch on the side of the road on your prom night wondering why did this happen? And you never saw it coming. Am I right?" 
    She doesn't wait for an answer. 
   "Believe me doll. Men are scumbags until they prove they're women."

Got to love Donna.


Then there are the Mikes. As in plural. Two stoner guys from Justina's school named Mike and Other Mike. Think Dazed and Confused: 

Source
With a little Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High: 


Source

Raise your hand if you knew (or know) a couple of guys like them. It's all about the munchies, and "head" shops ("It's not super, you know,...legal to call it a head shop"),  and which bong pulls the cleanest smoke.  But you know what? They're pretty decent guys too. On more than a few occasions they helped our girl Justina out. They even have a nickname for her: Sweetness (more on that later.) And had it not been for the Mikes, we wouldn't have been introduced to two more of my favorite characters: the Mike's prom dates from rival school Ledbetter High, Serenity and Bliss (so named for their essences according to the Mikes.)



Source
That would be Serenity pictured above.


Here's a bit of the girls:

       Just then two girls came into the bathroom. Platform heels. Animal print dresses. Mike's and Other Mike's girlfriends-- the Ledbetter girls.

       I was scrunched in the corner trying to stifle my tears, but they didn't notice me. They were already mid-conversation. 
      "So? His thing, Is it, you know....big?"
      "Like a zucchini!"
     "Really? Which kind?"
     "What do you mind which kind? The stir-fry kind."
      I stayed small and quiet, not wanting to interrupt their conversation. But also not wanting to hear their conversation. I had heard rumors that Ledbetter girls like sex. And food. I just didn't know they meant together.

But there is more to the Ledbetter girls than this. In fact, over the course of the night, Justina and Serenity strike up a friendship. Justina confides all her woes to Serenity. And in the process discovers a few things about herself.


    "I don't know if Ian and I are ever going to land in the same place. Why is this so hard for us? I just want you and Mike have. Not the sexting--well maybe-- but I want someone to be at my hip. I want someone to call me by my essence.."

     She laughed. "They do."
     "They who?"
     "The guys, silly." She pushed back from me and we locked eyes. "They call you Sweetness because that is your essence."
      "Really? It's not because I'm a party girl?" 
      "Hell no. You're all sweetness, through and through. They've known that for a long time." She bumped shoulders with me. "And I think Ian has, too."
      "Then why do we keep missing each other? Why aren't we human magnets?" I cried like a blubbering mess. "It's my reputation isn't it? It'll never go away."
      "What reputation, silly?"
      I wiped the snot from my nose with the back of my hand. "Last summer at Jimmy DeFranco's party" --I took a deep breath, scared to tell her the rest. So I closed my eyes and and let it out--"I kissed two guys in one night."
      She laughed. Like a big, deep, horse laugh. "You don't even want to know what I've done with two guys in one night. Bliss and I used to play that game. I understand. I've kissed a lot of guys."
      "But why'd you stop? Why Mike?"
    "This one weekend, Bliss and I went to the lake. We were standing in line to rent inner tubes, and Mike introduced himself." She tapped her fingers on her cheek, taking her time to enjoy this memory. "My hands were full, and he offered to carry mine. And that was it. Isn't that stupid? Something so small."
    It wasn't stupid. I knew exactly what she meant...

You see Justina has a lot of hang ups. She is constantly worried what other people are thinking of her, a fact that Ian points out again and again. What she really needs is some good, old fashioned girl-friend therapy. And over the course of the book she gets it. It may come from unlikely sources, but it's true and genuine all the same.


Besides being totally funny, I think what makes the Mikes and the Ledbetter girls so appealing is that I knew those people when I was in high school. Well, not them, but the type: the stoner guys, the slutty girls and the popular crowd. They are part of the demographic of every American high school aren't they? And I love how Mellom has captured this in her book in the same way that John Hughes or Cameron Crowe did with their films. And so I wasn't at all surprised when I finished the book, smile still on my face, and read her acknowledgments page.  Her final paragraph sums it all up:


"And finally, a shout-out to the late, great movie maker, John Hughes. Thank you for shaping my formative years. For showing me that every teenager has a story. It's often funny, often heartbreaking, and there is often there is love. And we should pay attention. Because in the words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."


Amen, Ferris! And Amen, Robin Mellom! Ditched: A Love Story does a great job portraying all of those stories teenagers have to tell.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be picking up Mellom's next work. Because guess who is the star of the new book? My favorite Ledbetter girl, Serenity! The book, entitled Busted (how freaking appropriate!) will feature Serenity in L.A! Sounds like a hoot and I look forward to it:)


And hey, if you are going to be at TeenBook Con in Houston this weekend (April 14), Robin Mellom will be there, and on April 20 she will be speaking and signing  in Atlanta at Barnes &Noble. Check out her website for more information:)


4.5/5 Stars


Cover story:

    
Oh, book marketing people. I appreciate the cover after reading the book, but must admit that I didn't much care for it beforehand. People, don't let the cover fool you! The book is great:)


Check out some other reviews of Ditched: A Love Story
Five Alarm Book Reviews
Katie's Book Blog
Badass Bookie- Read an interview with Robin Mellom and the insider scoop on the story's inception.

I wanted to again thank Badass Bookie and Robin Mellom for hosting a giveaway of Ditched A Love Story. The book arrived from the author signed and dedicated (and wrapped in a pretty hot pink ribbon!) As you can tell, I loved it!










6 comments:

  1. Wow -- you got way more out of this book that I did!!!
    Maybe I'll have to read it again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I laughed my butt off during this book! And I really did think of nearly all those films and tv shows while reading about the various characters:)

      Delete
  2. This review is awesome! Love the photos, ha. I grew up in the 90s, which paled in comparison to the 80s when it came to teen movies. I took this book out of the library and ended up returning it unread, but I think you've just motivated me to check it out again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a big fan of 90s teen movies too! (Heck I'm a big fan of teen movies from any time period including current ones:) This book just spoke to me, glad you liked the review:)

      Delete
  3. Oh I'm getting this book asap! I loved your references to the eighties and the fact that you have already made me connect to characters that I haven't met yet :D I'm completely excited and can't wait to read this book!

    Book Enslaved

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! I'm so glad, I think this book needs a little more attention, it was a blast to read:)I hope you enjoy it and can't wait to hear your thoughts too!

      Delete

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts! Comments make my day and I really do read them all:)

**I have decided to change my settings, allowing only registered users to comment. I do this only because I am being inundated with spammy comments. I hope this is not a huge inconvenience to anyone:) **