The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Pages: 320 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Jules is a senior in high school who is a driven overachiever. The motivation given for her over-the-top perfectionism is that she believes her two moms--a very loving, supportive lesbian couple who have been together for decades--are spending a fortune raising her, and she feels very guilty if she doesn't make it well worth their while by hyperachieving, due to her very existence costing them so much money. The romantic interest in the story is the titular "new guy," Alex, who was a member of a classic "one hit wonder" boy band several years ago, a band much like the Monkees of the 1960's who were put together by a band promoter, not a group who, as their band's promoters claimed, came together organically on their own. Until she meets Alex, Jules is determined to not date at all until she gets to college, and her huge goal in life is to get accepted into the highly competitive, Ivy League school, Brown University in Rhode Island. But soon after she meets gorgeous, adorable Alex, she can't resist him and soon starts dating him. Unfortunately, when Alex is drawn into taking the side of her greatest rival at the school, and he doesn't understand that in Jules's eyes by doing so he has betrayed her, their two-week romance hits the rocks when Jules dumps him.
I'm a huge fan of YA comedy, and there is not nearly enough of it offered by publishers or indie authors in my opinion, so I was delighted to encounter this book. My only quibble with the book is the way the publisher has chosen to market it as primarily a romance novel. The center of Jules's story universe is not "the new boy," Alex, as one would expect in a romance novel. Instead, the main plot, what one might call the "A Plot," is a comedic, chick lit version of a classic, YA storyline, the "coming of age" plot. In contrast, the romance is a secondary B Plot in that Jules and Alex spend most of the book not on stage together.
Once I got clear in my mind what kind of story this actually is, I was able to go with the flow of it and enjoy it. If I were thinking of it as a romance, however, I would be disappointed in that we never really get to know Alex. His personality isn't very well developed, though I will say that what we do know of him is sympathetic. He's a very sweet, understanding, mellow guy with a strong sense of tolerance and a well-developed sense of humor--all traits he definitely needs to handle being in a relationship with Jules who, as I've indicated, is very tightly wound.
Anyone who enjoys situation comedies, with their high population of slightly (or totally) narcissistic comic characters, will recognize in Jules a classic comic character who is frequently self-absorbed in her singleminded pursuit of her goals, sometimes to the point of not noticing she is running down other people in her path on her way to where she wants to go. However, like most sympathetic comic characters, she has many redeeming characteristics, in particular her love and loyalty for her pets and her parents. I always enjoy plots, as well, where the lead protagonist's greatest strength is her greatest flaw. In this case her virtue/vice it is her enormous self-discipline. In the positive this trait has brought Jules enormous academic success. In the negative in this story it gives her an imbalanced life and leads her to inadvertently harm herself and others.
There is an excellent growth arc in this book, and overall Jules is a likeable character.
This book is G-rated, without swearing, drinking, drugs or underage sex and, as such, can be enjoyed by all ages.
REVIEWER DISCLOSURE: I received an Advance Reviewer Copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley. The publisher's projected release date is April 5, 2016.
I rate this book as follows:
Romantic Interest: 4
Coming of Age Plot: 4
Romance Subplot: 3