Abbreviations #108: Hello, Universe + Dating Makes Perfect + Super Fake Love Song

November 4, 2020


I've always wanted to read something written by author Erin Entrada Kelly (who is a Filipino-American author) and ended up binge reading Hello, Universe on a whim. This Newbury Medal awardee is a contemporary middle grade about four kids: shy Virgil who feels out of place among his family, smart Valencia who is also deaf and a little lonely, self-proclaimed psychic Kaori and athletic tough kid Chet who can’t help paying attention to the kids who are different. Their lives are intertwined irrevocably on the day Chet pulls a prank that lands Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well, and Kaori, her little sister Gen and Valencia set out on a quest to find him. Hello, Universe is a simple, slice of life tale that takes place over the course of a day. My younger self would have appreciated having a story like this in my hands for the many ways it would have made me feel seen. Even as an adult, I found the theme of loneliness and searching for connection and recognition extremely relatable. And that’s on top of the other truths that are put on the page, like the complicated situations you face growing up and the value of other folks and your relationships with them. While the writing is certainly targeted towards a younger audience, there was something that resonated with me when I read Hello, Universe. If you can get your hands on a copy to share with the younger readers in your life, I’d highly encourage doing so.

Hello, Universe was published on March 14, 2017 by Greenwillow Books.
I received a free copy of the paperback from the publisher for review.

***

I’ve got a soft spot for teen rom-coms, and Dating Makes Perfect fits that bill perfectly. Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), the youngest of the Tech sisters, has the benefit of their parents lifting the “no dating in high school” rule after her siblings go off to college and insist they need more practice dating before their parents can expect them to have serious relationships. There’s a catch though - Winnie is only allowed to practice by going on dates set up by her parents. Their choice for her dating practice is Mat Songsomboon, which is rather unfortunate considering he was Winnie’s best friend up until a certain incident went down. Fake dating? Check. Former friend turned stranger (or sworn enemy, if you ask Winnie)? Check. In all honesty, Dating Makes Perfect was such a cute read! I had a lot of fun getting caught up in all the shenanigans of Winnie’s budding life, as well as experiencing that lovely, fluttery feeling whenever something swoon-worthy happened. The plot might have been fairly predictable, but I felt that the specific Thai-American flavor added on page (whether it be through actual cultural details or through simple family dynamics) made it stand out a little more than it would have otherwise. But the family dynamics were what specifically struck a chord, especially Winnie’s relationship with her older twin sisters (I’ll always have a soft spot for sister stories) and navigating the murky lines of miscommunication (or lack of communication) between parents and kids. I enjoyed Dating Makes Perfect, and I genuinely think a lot of readers will as well.

Dating Makes Perfect was published on August 18, 2020 by Entangled Teen.
I received an advanced reading copy (ARC) from the publisher for review.

***

Super Fake Love Song
is David Yoon's sophomore novel, and overall, I liked it. The set-up is fairly simple: the nerdy guy (Sunny Dae) meets the cool girl (Cirrus Soh) and gets mistakenly wrapped up in a lie where he is the front man of a rock band. In order to perpetuate the lie, he convinces his friends to fake being in an actual band and starts dressing up in his elder brother's cast-offs. As he embraces this new persona, he discovers that he's actually gaining confidence, having fun and questioning whether he's been holding himself back for no real reason... until the house of cards comes tumbling down. Super Fake Love Song reminded me of the teen films of the late 1990s/early 2000s that I loved. It made my reading experience feel nostalgic, and that in turn allowed me to drift along with the story no matter how overly dramatic or eye-roll worthy the turn of events got. Even as an adult reading something meant for teens, I found parts of this relatable: the chameleon act many of us put on in order to fit right in, the unwillingness to reveal parts of your true self for fear of ridicule or out of a desire to keep them sacred and safe, discovering that people might not always be exactly what you’ve assigned them to be (yourself included, by the way), just to name a few. While it does have its merits, I didn’t get on perfectly with the writing style nor did I feel connected to any of the characters… and both of these things affected my overall feelings about the book. Still, I do think Super Fake Love Song is fun, likable and a welcome distraction from the stress of real life.

Super Fake Love Song will be published on November 17, 2020 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers.
I received an advanced reading copy (ARC) from the publisher for review.

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