Blue Eyes and Other Teenage Hazards by Janette Rallison
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: December 3, 2011
Pages: 174 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Fifteen-year-old sophomore, Cassidy, is broken hearted when Anjie, her long-time best friend and next-door neighbor, moves away. As a fellow serious, A-student, no one has ever understood Cassidy like Anjie. Then a big, boisterous family moves into Angie's house, and at first Cassidy is hopeful she might make a new friend when she learns that the family includes a girl her age. Unfortunately, mercurial, party-girl Elise turns out to be the polar opposite of Cassidy's ideal for a friend. Elise is a terrible student, gets drunk at unsupervised parties and, worst of all, she starts dating Chad, a handsome athlete Cassidy has worshipped from afar since middle school.
Cassidy is ready to throw in the towel and give up on Elise until Josh, Elise's gorgeous, senior brother who drives the two girls to school each day, begs Cassidy to remain Elise's friend. He considers Cassidy a steadying influence on Elise, whose wild ways were the main reason the family moved from urban California to Cassidy's tiny home town in Washington State--they wanted to remove Elise from bad influences.
Though Elise's problems sound rather serious, the tone of this story remains comedic throughout. It is written as hilarious YA chick lit. Its many laugh-out-loud moments are produced by a combination of Cassidy's dating disasters and the overwhelming inrush of Elise's chaos into geeky Cassidy's previously well-ordered life.
It takes a truly gifted writer to create a character as messed up as poor Elise and make her as sympathetic as she is. Underneath all her rebellion against her family for being lost in the shuffle of six siblings and a seventh on the way, Elise really does love her family, including the small siblings she constantly babysits. In addition, even when she is loudly complaining, Elise, who is Mensa-level intelligent, is extremely witty. Elise is such a ball of fire, in fact, if Cassidy weren't so smart and quietly witty herself, Elise might have upstaged her. As it is, the sparring between them is quite evenly matched and a pleasure to witness.
There is also a lovely romantic subplot for Cassidy, which adds greatly to the overall enjoyment of the story. And the guy that Elise ends up with is completely unpredictable, making her journey to romance both funny and heart-warming.
All in all, this book is a real treasure, not to be missed.
Parental guidance: Though Elise does do some underage drinking, it is never romanticized, rather it is seen through the eyes of Cassidy and Josh as the serious problem it is. There is no underage sex or swearing in this book, and I would personally consider this book suitable for preteens as young as 12, but the story is so well written and entertaining that older teens and adults will appreciate it as well.
Fans of this book will be happy to know it has an equally delightful sequel called All's Fair in Love, War, and High School.
I had previously owned this book in trade paperback format and recently purchased it again in a Kindle ebook edition, which is well edited and well formatted.
I rate this book as follows:
Chick Lit Plot: 5
Romance Plot: 5