Young Annabelle by Sarah Tork
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have to admit that I really liked this book.
The story follows Annabelle, a slightly (very slightly in my opinion) overweight young girl whose self-image is under constant attack by her mother's obsession over thinning her down for her senior year. Though Annabelle wears only a size ten, her mother buys her clothes that are too small for her as incentive for her to lose weight, makes her wear a calorie tracking wristwatch, and makes her eat horribly unsatisfying foods in tiny quantities. Besides that, Annabelle's younger siblings are often brought in by their mother to gang up on Annabelle over her weight, making them disrespect their older sister and making Annabelle feel alone in a family who views her as less than worthy of their love and acceptance.
Already downtrodden, Annabelle finds herself in a thankless job selling lemonade at a country club. But that's when things get interesting. She meets a rather rude, but very hot boy named James who turns her life upside down. Her insecurities make her doubt everything he says, especially when he tells her she's beautiful, and she comes off pretty harsh at times. On the other hand, he's pretty self-absorbed and single minded, often coming off as a jerk.
Still, throughout the whole thing, I found myself rooting for Annabelle and James. His compliments and kinder moments seem to draw Annabelle out from the dark cloud her family has cast over her. As for Annabelle, she's a complex girl, and I totally get why she has so much trouble believing that James really likes her. I can't help but cringe when she lashes out at him, sometimes deserved, but not always.
Overall, I found Annabelle to be a relatable, insecure girl. Her rollercoaster of feelings, her struggle to please her parents, and her first encounters with a handsome boy who happens to like her are realistically portrayed if, at times, hard to take. I empathized with her and rooted for her, and even rooted for James, who had some good things going for him, too.
The story is well-layed out and well-written, though I did notice some errors sprinkled throughout, mostly words that sound like the right ones, but as spelled, don't mean what the author likely intended. The opening of the story starts at the end, not the end of this book, as I had expected, but likely the end of the series, or maybe even some way into the next book. The end leaves off at a cliffhanger kind of suddenly, and while it sets the stage for the next book, I would have liked some more resolution in this one.
Overall, I really liked Young Annabelle and would recommend it to fans of realistic, contemporary YA who enjoy reading about first loves, crazy parents, and troubled teens struggling to find themselves.
Although the author requested a review for this book earlier in the year, I found my copy on Smashwords during a free promotion.
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