Celeste Watkins finds high school to be the most trying part of her life. Every day she is surrounded by people who don’t know her and don’t really care to. She is surrounded by people who don’t really care about getting a education as much as they care about getting through this phase. The fact that she speaks a little differently and has very little social finesse doesn’t help matters any. She is certain that if she can just make it to college, everything will be different. Kids in college are more educational focused, right? Then a chance encounter with a college sophomore offers up a bit of hope. Justin Milano is just as odd as she is and with each responded email, he pulls her a little more out of her solitude. Together they might be able to save not only each other, but two other people who mean the world to Celeste.
I loved Celeste immediately. She’s so smart and dedicated and I can definitely relate to the low people skills dilemma, though maybe not on such an extreme level. Beyond being majorly intelligent, Celeste is also sweet and kind and more lonely than she’d care to admit. Her little quirks are what quickly endeared me to her. I love her aversion to contractions and the love of research. It’s really hard not to empathize with her in many moments because she is forced to keep up a charade of being socially accepted at school to prevent her parents and brother from worrying over her, but she’s really an outcast. Who wants to be friends with the girl who throws off the grading curve? The one who does so ridiculously well on the class presentations that no one else will even come close to that level of success? No one and therein lies the problem. Once she receives that first email from Justin, watching her banter back and forth and attempt to ease some of his obvious distress for how his emails are turning out, I feel a bit in love with this girl. She’s awesome, just as she is, and the thought that the world wants her to change infuriates me.
I was head over heels for Justin almost immediately. He’s the perfect match for Celeste. He’s a better at interacting with people, but he’s over-energized and that leads to many an awkward moment. He’s smart and so very sweet. He goes out of his way to make her feel comfortable and she does the same for him. There is a great scene with spilled sodas that just melted my heart. Just trust me on this, k? He’s awesome.
This is one of those novels that you read (or listen to, in my case) and absolutely adore but can’t seem to articulate why exactly you love it. It’s intelligent and witty and cute and emotional and heart-breaking and all the feels! Portraying a character like Celeste is a very thin line to walk and Park pulls it off flawlessly. From the moment I started listening, I was hooked. I wanted more of Celeste and Matty and Justin and the whole world Park has created for us. I have not yet read Flat-Out Love or Flat-Out Matt yet, but I desperately want to at this point. This novel can definitely stand on it’s own, but I think the ending will have a bit more meaning for those who read the previous novels. It was still sob-inducingly romantic from my perspective, so I can’t imagine how much more powerful I would have felt if I was even more attached to Matt and Julie.
Speaking of Matt, can I have a brother who is so devoted to me? I mean, seriously, this guy goes through hell to make Celeste’s life more bearable and I love him for it. He’s a big part of why I want to read FOL. I’m even more excited now that I know exactly how his relationship with Julie will end up.
I had relatively high expectations when I started this. I have heard/read great things about this series (and about Park’s writing in general) and I was dying to see what all the fuss was about. I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed. This novel is one I will be recommending to everyone I know because it’s perfect, absolutely perfect. I wish I could lay it out in more detail for you than that, but I just can’t. If you like contemporary YA romances with a touch of heart-break and an ending so imperfectly perfect that it makes you cry, then this is what you want to pick up.
Tavia Gilbert was the perfect Celeste. I’m just a little worried about how I’ll react to her in other novels because she just seems so perfectly Celeste that I might have trouble believing her as anyone else. I hope that isn’t the case because she’s pretty awesome. She has a great voice with good pronunciation and timing. She gives you just enough time to absorb what she has laid before you before continuing on with the story without being overly slow. I know Audible allows you to speed up or slow down your narrator but I just don’t like to do that. I like to listen at the pace the narrator sets. I also think the narrator feels a bit choppy when using those features so I avoid them. Regardless, Tavia was great and I’ll definitely be checking out more of her work in the future!
****Thank you to Wordsmith Publicity and Jessica Park for providing me with an audio copy in exchange for an honest review****