I got an e-mail a while back asking if I'd be interested in blogging about this book. You can tell when I'm skeptical about a book because about halfway through the blurb, I'll squint like I've got pickle juice in my eye and sigh "eeeeeeeeeh." It doesn't mean I'm uninterested, just that I'd have to be in the right mood to pick it up. Nevertheless, the person with a skepticism-inducing summary seemed nice enough and in bookstores, I always read the blurb, first chapter and last chapter. I asked if I could read an excerpt before making my decision.
Two chapters later, I was absolutely in love with the characters and signed up without any further hesitation. That now brings us to Kim Karras' "Accidentally Me."
"WANTED: Pretend stalker. No experience required. Tall, dark, and quirky preferred. Sabrina is desperate to go to her dream college, but her parents want her to stay close to home. If she wants to maintain her perfect child image, Sabrina must break rules that even her rebel sister keeps . . ."
I've read enough YA novels over the years that I know the inevitable disaster that follows a pretend anything. Either the person falls madly in love with their fake stalker/boyfriend or, if it's written by someone like Christopher Pike, they end up dead. I wasn't rooting for either of those options, so I was curious to see what the middle ground would be.
With this search for a compromise, I guessed that the middle ground be one of Sabrina's own invention. The person who appears under the name of the main character in the first few pages seems unlikely to attain that level of maturity. She resents her older sister, a single mom who has invaded the house with two kids. (I was hooked when one character was only referred to as The Noise, I have to admit.) She strains against her parents' good intentions.
What made me tell my friends that this is one of the best-written cast of characters in a YA that I've read in years is this: Not a single person who has a principal role in this book is someone who is acted upon. Sabrina wants to go to college in California, but she doesn't make her objections to a state college known and then just wait for her family to have a miraculous change of heart. She independently prepares to succeed if they aren't moved by her impassioned pleas. Her parents are appropriately reactionary when it comes to a threat to their daughter. Her sister is constantly in search of what will help her fulfill her goals in life.
The ending was one that seemed foreseen from the beginning of the book because the characterization developed naturally. Well done, Kim!