Avery James is focused. She is at the top of her junior class and on top of pretty much everything. Her long-term goal is to be a doctor, and in order to distinguish herself for college applications, she plans to work for the summer in Costa Rica with a medical humanitarian program. Only problem with that is the cost: she’ll have to spend $4000 to get there and do the program. She’s been working very hard at the Diggity Dog shop, too often dressed as the giant hot dog (who’s required to dance whenever customers ask!), but she’s still falling short on the money she’ll need.
Her former best friend and competition for valedictorian next year is Hannah, who is just as obsessed about everything being just right. The main difference between the two is that Hannah’s mom is also obsessed with perfection in every little thing; Avery’s mom is not even in the picture anymore because she abandoned the family four years ago.
Avery’s doing fine holding everything in her life together but is worried about being able to go to Costa Rica. Then Hannah proposes a solution: she’ll pay Avery the money she needs if Avery will spend time with Hannah’s boyfriend, woo him, and lead him to break up with her. Hannah doesn’t want to look bad for breaking up with Zac, and she’s tired of his very un-focused and un-obsessed-with-perfection way of living.
Avery is happy about the money, but it turns out that having Zac in her life makes things unpredictable and, of course, leads her to develop unexpected feelings for him, which makes her extremely uncomfortable. She’s managed to keep control for four years, and this new variable could easily spin her right out of her comfort zone.
I expected a fun fluff novel, and in a way, this book was a good fluffy teen romance. But in many more ways, it was a very real portrait of a teen who is confused about her life and worried about anyone else making her care about them — and then, inevitably (so she thinks) breaking her heart again. Norris makes us feel Avery’s pain in a real way, and when Avery finally sees life more clearly in all its messiness, we rejoice with her even as we sympathize with how hard the whole journey has been.
Rated: Mild, for some mild language. There are just a couple scenes of kissing, and not much else that’s offensive. The worst anyone drinks is a slushie.