Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Surviving High School ~ M Doty (earc) review

Surviving High School
September 4, 2012
272 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Emily Kessler feels more than the usual pressures upon starting high school. Not only does she heave a new school to navigate, all honors classes to manage, a new social world to maneuver through, and cute boys to crush on, she also has her swimming.

Emily is all about swimming and has been for as long as she can remember. It's going to take everything she has - all her focus, a deeply regimented sleep schedule and diet - to be her best, the best and live up to the standards left behind by her older sister Sara.

But will even all of that be enough to make it against everything high school has to throw at her? Against Dominique, not only Emily's toughest competition in the pool but also her all-around mean girl and toughest competition for the boy who just might distract Emily from swimming?

That boy, adorable and popular Ben Kale, is everything Emily's been told to steer clear of. With Ben in the picture, Emily thinks being not all about swimming might not be such a bad thing.

Can Emily find out what it is she really wants, what makes her happy - and survive high school?

M. Doty's Surviving High School is a fun and cute contemporary that adds in just enough drama and seriousness to keep the characters real and the action compelling. Emily Kessler is starting high school as the novel opens. She's not, though, that worried about the new school year - at least not for the obvious reason.

With only one real friend, Emily isn't worried about who she has classes with or even which classes she does have. She's more concerned with avoiding the boy who was involved with her sister's recent death and keeping her swimming above par.

The added elements of Emily's swimming - and the need for it to be top notch - and her need to live up to her sister (whilst also missing her), gave the book some depth. As did Emily's relationship with her father who was also her swimming coach. Their relationship was contentious and trying, but the author kept it from being flat - you could see there was more there.

In the beginning of the novel, Emily did almost feel like a different character from one section to the next - or at least in alternating parts she felt like two different characters. When she was with her friend, Kimi, she felt like a freshman but when she was swimming or with her family, she felt like and older, almost upperclassman character.

Once I got into things - or connected with Emily more, she didn't seem as divergent. More like a young girl who wanted to have fun but also took her swimming incredibly seriously. I'm not sure if it takes time to connect with Emily and her personality or if she becomes more settled as the book progresses.

The progression of both Emily's character and her different relationships did feel very real. They sometimes left me wanting her to make different decisions, be more responsible or think things through a little more-slash-better-slash-differently, but that's what made it feel real in the end. If she'd made perfect choices, done everything right and come through unscathed, she wouldn't have felt like a ninth grader.

Surviving High School is a fun, contemporary read that is light but not too light.

Rating: 8/10

egalley received from LBYR through NetGalley

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