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Sunday, February 26, 2012

What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman

National Book Award winning author Pete Hautman lets us in on the secret. Lita is the writer. Adam is the entrepreneur. They are JUST FRIENDS.So Adam would never sell copies of a self-help book before he'd even written it. And Lita would never try to break up Adam's relationship with Blair, the skankiest girl at school. They'd never sabotage their friends Emily and Dennis. Lita would never date a guy related to a girl she can't stand. They'd never steal each other's blog posts. And Adam would never end up in a fist fight with Lita's boyfriend. Nope, never. Adam and Lita might never agree on what happened, but in this hilarious story from Pete Hautman, they manage to give the world a little more insight into what boys and girls are really looking for.

In the past, I've read a few of Pete Hautman's other novels. His books are very sweet, contemporary books kind of stripped down to the essence. I enjoyed his other reads, and when I found out about his newest release, the romantic comedy What Boys Really Want , it was one of my must-haves for 2012. 

The story felt a little too heavily based on romance, but I enjoyed the read. 

Adam and Lita are friends. JUST FRIENDS.They've been best friends forever, both firmly in their own roles: Adam is the entrepreneur and Lita is the writer. Adam comes up with the idea to write a book, though, shaking up their roles and making both of them unsure of their identities. Adam decides he will write a book on what boys want -- hence the title of the novel -- and Lita turns her attention to matchmaking her friend Emily with her crush. Their friendship becomes more and more distanced, though, as Adam becomes more and more engrossed in the book and people become more interested in reading his book. 

This book is really refreshing. I mean, a boy-girl friendship? Where neither of them are interested in dating the other or harboring a secret crush on the other? Fantastic. I love boy-girl friendships and I have lots of guy friends. I thought this was a really refreshing part of the story. The friendships are done very well, and they make up a large portion of the novel: Lita and her friends, Adam and his friends, and Adam and Lita's friendship are very prominent. The book is also really funny -- there are a lot of humorous moments and they all are realistic while being hilarious. So in some parts the book is really refreshing. But there were also issues I had. The romance is obviously a key part of the book. I expected it to be a big part of the novel, and it is. There's a major subplot with Lita attempting to hook up her friend Emily, and both Adam and Lita gain love interests. I liked the love interests, Blair and Brett, but my issues were more with the love subplot. Throughout the entire book Lita had been fixtated on her plan, and she wanted to make sure Emily got the guy of her dreams. But at the end, the subplot kind of fell apart. Emily started to date her crush, and while their relationship ended realisticly it seemed like a low ending. The entire book had been working up to some kind of interaction between them, and I expected it to end a little better. The two characters moved on so quickly it made me wonder why the author had even inserted the subplot. 

The other thing I want to note is that Adam does self-publish his book. I have nothing against self-publishing -- I've read many great books that were published by their authors -- but I did wish that Hautman had discussed traditional publishing/self publishing a bit more. He had a character state that he disliked self-publishing, and another character who was published traditionally, and briefly explained the traditional publishing route (writing the book, editing, getting a literary agent and then having the agent go on submission). I did think it would have been interesting to have more on this topic, and kind of make for some interesting parallels to Adam's way of publishing compared to the traditional way of publishing shown by Lita's mother. Overall a strong plot and a good story with some confusing subplots and some things that could have been addressed better. 

The characters were fantastic. Lita and Adam both had very distinct personalities and narrations. It was easy to tell that Adam was a boy and Lita was a girl, which doesn't always happen with double-gender POVs. The dialogue was very realistic and sounded like real teenagers. The other characters were also very developed, and the best friends -- a trope that sometimes creates flat characters -- were also developed. The love interests were both interesting, and I loved how Hautman broke down gender stereotypes with his love interests while still giving the interests their own personalities. Brett was very into auto mechanics but also enjoyed English lit and Blair acted skanky but wasn't as skanky as she seemed. There's also a fun twist about Brett and Blair at the end but I won't give it away. :) Very strong, realistic characters. 

Hautman's writing is very realistic. His characters all sounded like teenagers, and that reflected in his writing as well; the narration sounded like how a teenager would speak and act. His writing's also very funny, and he's a very good humorous writer with a good sense of how teenagers act. 

If you enjoy contemporary YA this would be a good read for you, and if you're interested in romance and "he said, she said" stories you would probably also enjoy this read. I had some issues with the book but it turned out to be a good story and I'm glad I chose to read it. 

A lovely contemp. 

Four stars.

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