Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Flat Out Love

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park was an awesome book! It grabbed my attention from the very first page and didn’t let go till the very end!

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie’s off-campus housing falls through, her mother’s old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side … and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there’s that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That’s because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie’s suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that … well … doesn’t quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

This book starts out with a very interesting situation: Julie, the main character, arrives at the address of the apartment she rented through Craigslist, only to discover a Mexican restaurant where her apartment should be!  And this is only the beginning of the craziness that is Julie’s life!

I really liked Julie.  She’s smart and loves school, tries to help everyone as best she can, and is a hopeless romantic.  These aspects helped me connect with her because they all are traits I see in myself.  Julie seems more self-conscious than I ever was, though.  For example, she explains that she’s looking forward to college because she can express her love of school without feeling like a nerd.  I never tried to hide my love of learning in high school and college, so I didn’t connect with Julie about that.

I also really liked the Watkins family.  Celeste is super quirky, but very loveable.  Matt is a nerd, but he loves what he loves and doesn’t care what other people think.  Roger is a soft-spoken, kind-hearted man.  And Erin is trying very hard to keep it together, despite complications that I can’t name due to spoilers.  Even Finn came alive through his Facebook chats and emails with Julie.  I think my favorite character of the Watkins family would be Celeste and Flat Finn, though.

Flat Finn is a life-size cardboard cutout of Finn, Celeste and Matt’s older brother who is traveling the world.  Celeste acts as if he’s a real person with thoughts and feelings to keep from missing her brother.  The conversations surrounding Flat Finn are hilarious! I wonder how the author came up with the idea of a cardboard cutout.  She’s got to have quite the imagination!

Now, despite all the praise I’ve heaped onto this book so far, there were a couple of things that bothered me.  For example, the Facebook updates at the beginning of some of the chapters weren’t my favorite.  They were weird and didn’t sound at all like the updates my friends and I make on Facebook.  The ones in the book felt like they were trying WAY too hard to be witty/funny.

I also didn’t like where the sections of this book ended.  For example, Part One ends right as Julie and Seth are going on their first date and Part Two picks up several months later.  I kind of wanted to see how their date went.  I mean, obviously it went well, since they’re still dating in Part Two, but it was still a bit of a weird place to end.  Even the final page of the book felt like it ended in an odd place.  You know how with some books, you read the final sentence and it just fits perfectly with the rest of the book, which makes you just sigh and hug the book to your chest out of happiness?  I don’t think Flat-Out Love had that kind of ending.  I kind of felt dissatisfied with the ending because it didn’t have that kind of closure.

This book isn’t solely about love.  It’s about grief and mental illness, trauma and coping methods, dysfunctional families and unhealthy relationships.  I loved that it wasn’t just a romance book.  It went deeper than that, which allowed me to fully invest myself in this book.  I give Flat-Out Love 4 stars out of 5.


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