Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park | Review

July 7, 2015 Book Reviews 13 ★★★★½

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park | ReviewFlat-Out Love by Jessica Park
Series: Flat-Out Love #1
Published by Amazon Children's Publishing on April 11th 2011
Pages: 389
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

Flat-Out Love is a warm and witty novel of family love and dysfunction, deep heartache and raw vulnerability, with a bit of mystery and one whopping, knock-you-to-your-knees romance.

It's not what you know—or when you see—that matters. It's about a journey.

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that ... well... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

Flat-Out Love comes complete with emails, Facebook status updates, and instant messages.

If I had to sum up FLAT OUT LOVE in a word, that word would be delightful. It’s been so long since I read a book where I would audibly sigh with contentedness and exclaim “I adore this book!” From start to finish, FLAT OUT LOVE hooked me and I happily succumbed to its charms. 

It’s Julie’s first day in Boston and she’s already off to a shaky start. Her “apartment” that she rented sight unseen doesn’t exist and a call for help to her mom has her sitting in the car of her mom’s ex-room-mate’s son who’s just a little bit too geeky, a little bit too awkward and doesn’t seem too thrilled to have her as a new house-guest. Julie quickly realises that Matt is the tip of the iceberg when she meets his little sister Celeste who among her many quirks carries a cardboard cut-out of their older brother Finn who’s off travelling the world. Slowly as Julie spends time with the little off-beat family she realises that they hold the key to unlocking her emotional walls just as much as she is the key to theirs. 

Jessica Park has a writing style that can only be described as raw, witty and utterly captivating. From her breathtaking descriptions of Boston through the seasons to her stellar dialogue that mixed intellect with wry social commentary topped off with a smidgeon of the ridiculous, each page had me squeeing and proclaiming to whomever would listen that this was such a ME book! 

While I have much love in my heart for all the characters in this book, the standout has to be the wonderful Celeste. I simply ached for her as she plodded along in her own quirky little bubble, not quite in sync with the rest of the world. I admired her gentle soul and grew angry at anyone who failed to see just how special she really is. 

I loved how Julie slotted in pretty easily to the Watkins’s household and very clearly became just the tonic they needed. It was her discourse with Matt and Finn that gave me life and kept the pages turning for completely different reasons. Matt is the quintessential nerd, unwilling to give in to peer pressure or if we’re honest doesn’t even pay attention to it and is the opposite of the outgoing and forthright Julie. Their sparring matches sizzle with chemistry and their mutual concern for Celeste paves the way for an uneasy alliance that proves vital to both of them.

Similarly when Julie strikes up a friendship with Finn online after messaging him to thank him for his room, we are privy to the slow burn of sexual attraction that comes when people have to use their words to convey what a loaded glance would do in less than a nano second. Their wordy interplay knocked my socks off as the sexual tension rose with each IM. I loved each brother equally and it broke my heart to see how torn up the situation made them.

This book covers a lot of issues with family and its many dynamics at its very core. There were times when I felt seriously vulnerable reading this book as it dredged up feelings from my own past in particular when reading Julie’s relationship with her own parents. While it was unsettling it felt like a true testament to how powerful Park’s writing and story was.

There is so much I could ramble on about with this book but instead I will impart some wisdom I learned from my reading experience which is don’t let this book meander for months on your kindle like I stupidly did but instead plunge headfirst into this warm, heartfelt and unforgettable story and experience some joy!



13 Responses to “Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park | Review”

  1. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Oh man, I’ve had this book for such a long time on my Kindle! Celeste sounds completely quirky and like loads of fun! I love the sound of the dialogue in this book. Lovely review Dani!

  2. tonyalee

    I remember when you finished this one and I immediately added it!I loved how much it touched you on a more personal level – it always makes that book that much more special. 🙂

  3. Alise

    “carries a cardboard cut-out of their older brother Finn” Oh my gosh, I have GOT to check this one out, the characters sound great. Loving the sound of the tension but also the family dynamics. Going to check this one out for sure.

  4. Bec @ Readers in Wonderland

    I remember walking past this book in my school library so many times but I never looked into it. Which I’m kicking myself about a bit because it sounds like a really intriguing contemporary.

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