Title: Flat-Out Love
Author: Jessica Park
Series: Flat-Out Love (Book #1)
Publication Date: April 11, 2011
Purchase: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Flat-Out Love is a warm and witty novel of family love and dysfunction, deep heartache and raw vulnerability, with a bit of mystery and one whopping, knock-you-to-your-knees romance. It’s not what you know—or when you see—that matters. It’s about a journey. 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.
Flat-Out Love is so much more than what’s on the surface. I remember reading the synopsis and thinking, “yeah, I can probably get into this.” If “probably get into” means be entirely captivated and encompassed by the story enough to refuse to put it down and sleep at 4 in the morning, then yeah, I got into it. When I finished, I couldn’t even think of what to write in my review, let alone form coherent words. I could gush over it forever. The dialogue is witty, the characters quirky, and the story so unique and unconventional and so much deeper than I expected at first glance. It’s been a while since I’ve read something that had me going through this many emotions.
Julie’s down on her luck when she moves to Boston, but her mother’s former college roommate is gracious enough to give her a temporary place to stay until she’s able to get on her feet. And this is where it all begins. The Watkins family is an interesting bunch, and it helped that Julie was just as likeable and eccentric as the rest of them; she integrated into the household so seamlessly. It’s rare that every single character in a story has much personality even with the smallest of roles, but Park managed it. From Julie’s new college friend Dana to the Watkins’ barely there father, everyone was present. Celeste was especially intriguing, and her relationship with Julie was one of my favourite things about the book. And yes, there is romance. And yes, it was good. Very good. It was a slow build-up but not the torturous kind that you wish would just, for the love of God, get to the point already.
I truly didn’t expect this book to knock me off my feet like it did. I found myself re-reading certain parts the day after I finished, just to have my heart shattered all over again because I’ve discovered I’m some kind of book masochist or something. I don’t even know. But reading this book really made me feel. When I laughed, I laughed loud. When I cried, I sobbed. Again, I can’t remember the last time a book made me do that. If you decide to give this book a shot, cancel your plans — you won’t be able to put it down.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Park is the author of the young adult novels FLAT-OUT LOVE and RELATIVELY FAMOUS; five Gourmet Girl mysteries (written as Jessica Conant-Park with her mother, mystery author Susan Conant); and the e-shorts FACEBOOKING RICK SPRINGFIELD and WHAT THE KID SAYS (Parts 1 & 2).
Jessica grew up in the Boston area and attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. After spending four years in the frigid north, including suffering through one memorable Halloween blizzard, Jessica hightailed it back to the east coast. She now lives in (relatively balmy) New Hampshire with her husband, son, bananas dog named Fritzy, and two selfish cats. When not writing, Jessica indulges her healthy addictions to Facebook, Rick Springfield, and super-sweet coffee beverages. (via Goodreads)