Title: Flat Out Love
Author: Jessica Park
Narrated by: Julia Whelan
Publisher: Skyscape/Brillance Audio
Publication Date: 21011
Length: 389 pages / 9 hours, 43 minutes
Genre: New Adult Romance
Source: Purchased from Audible.com
When Julie arrives in Boston for her freshman year of college, nothing seems to be working out right. She ends up having to live with and old friend of her mother’s, Erin Watkins, and her family near Harvard University because her apartment rental was a scam. The Watkins family is nice enough, but something in that house is off. Erin and her husband are rarely home. The youngest daughter, Celeste, carries around a cardboard cutout of her older brother, Finn, who is off traveling the world. And Matt wears nerdy t-shirts while hiding himself away in his room to bury himself in his work for his studies at MIT. The family is nice enough, but that darn cardboard cutout — no one will tell Julie what’s really going on with Flat Finn and what event has traumatized Celeste so much. As Julie becomes closer to all of the members of the Watkins family, she develops special friendships with all of them, including a hint at romance with the ever-absent Finn via Facebook. But something is bubbling beneath the surface for this family…and in Julie’s own life…and this family’s delicate harmony is a ticking time bomb. What will happen when it goes off?
I have determined that it is impossible to write this review without spoilers. I loved this book, and I just don’t feel like being all vague about why. So if you want to avoid spoilers, please skip to the FINAL GRADE section of this review.
You have been warned.
I loved this book. And my love for it will cloud my ability to objectively review the novel. Oh well! There certainly were elements of the story that would normally deserve critique. The plot was a little predictable (I could see the ending from a mile away) and the characters pushed a little past my point of frustration with their denial and lies. HOWEVER, I fell in love with them. Just like Julie fell in love with the Watkins family and the Watkins family fell in love with her.
You see, this is a love story, yes. But it is also a story about the love of families. I was so glad to see Park give equal time to both the story of this family’s incredible pain and the romance floating behind the scenes. And what I loved most of all was Matt. Move over, Gilbert Blythe, because Matt is my new book boyfriend (though, in my head he’s a nerdy lesbian)! GOODNESS, I love that kid. And saying so is pretty spoilertastic, because he’s not set up to be the romantic interest of the novel. I never found Finn alluring and was pretty sure he wasn’t actually “traveling” because I knew the novel was setting Matt up to be Julie’s true love.
I also really loved Celeste. I felt that Park wrote her healing process in a very realistic way. She makes progress, she takes baby steps. And when the truth about Finn’s accident is revealed to Julie, she handles the family shift from lies to transparency quite well. The whole family was smart, witty, and warm. I just wanted to hang out with them in the book-filled Cambridge home and swap one-liners over take-out food. Julie wasn’t really my favorite character (I found her a bit hypocritical in wanting escape her dull high school friends, while simultaneously constantly mocking Matt), but even she grew on me as she became more self-aware in her first year away from home.
This is a quick, romantic read with interesting characters and depth. Park has written a novel that shows there is more to life than romance, but that romance still has its place. The dialogue and the sensuality of the story were icing on the cake. With elements of mystery, romance, pain, humor, and coming-of-age, Flat Out Love is a little book that packs a lot of punch. Don’t expect a Pulitzer here, but do expect to leave with a smile and warm fuzzies. As this is New Adult romance (about college students), I would recommend it to ages 15+ — teens thinking about college will be intrigued by Julie’s story. Be aware of sexual content and alcohol use, though this would be solidly a PG-13 novel.
Did you fall in love in your freshman year of college?