The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions)
by Amy Spalding
Published by Poppy on April 5, 2016
Genres: [Young Adult] Contemporary
Format: ARC, paperback
1 Star, Completed June 6, 2016
– SPOILER free –
I really want to be able to say that if I read this three-ish years ago when I was a senior in high school that the story would be relatable and appeal to me more. But, alas, I still wouldn’t think I’d enjoy it.
In The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions), Jules McCallister-Morgan is a senior at Eagle Vista Academy. She’s an honors student, organization freak, and may even be slightly neurotic. Her idea of an ideal senior year is earning her position as editor of The Crest, her school’s newspaper, getting into Brown University, and proving to herself that she was worth the money her moms invested in in order to have her. What she doesn’t expect to find is that she’ll become editor by default because her opponent has already moved on to better things and backed out of the competition; Alex Powell, ex-boy band member of the one hit wonder group, Chaos 4 All, is the new guy at school; and she may be interested in having a boyfriend more than she initially thought. Least of all, she didn’t anticipate becoming commander of one of the sides of a high school war.
“…I think that someone who cares passionately is a good role model.”
He sighs. “There’s a line between caring passionately and maybe going a little too far. Can you think hard about what side of the line you’re on?”
I like to think that I was a good student in high school, but I certainly wouldn’t call myself an overachiever by any means. However, I was acquainted with so many in my group of friends that the personality isn’t something I’m entirely unfamiliar with. And I recognize enough to know that there’s a difference between being confident versus egotistical. Unfortunately, I found Jules to be more conceited than inspiring.
Jules’ character is purposely written in a way where readers aren’t supposed to like her. She’s controlling, sometimes selfish, and many times inconsiderate-somewhat reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Emma in Emma. However, I disliked that even to the very end Jules remained to be considerably bratty. She repents for her mistakes and understands how she wrongs her friends, which is something to praise, but her personality was just so consistently irritating to me. Because of her OCD-like nature, she frets and overreacts very easily and often. And so there was an unhealthy amount of unnecessary conflicts and melodrama that I wasn’t interested in reading.
“He’s him and you’re you?” She asks. “Oh my god, Jules. Jules! Yes, he used to be famous, but you’re amazing.”
Okay, so it’s fantastic that Jules has such a supportive clique and that they’re there for her to help boost her self-esteem (though it’s apparent that she really doesn’t need it usually), but I was constantly so irked that these pep talk sessions were too frequently found throughout the entire novel. Everyone (her best friend, her moms, her teacher, her on and off boyfriend, and even her TALON “rival”) continuously complimented her for being so “amazing” even when she sometimes presented such undeserving behavior, in my opinion.
“Can I say it?” I interrupt. I have always wanted a moment like this, and it’s here! Maybe TALON has actually given me a gift. I get to be the underdog, and everyone knows that the underdog is the one to root for. I’ve been gearing up my whole life to be the underdog.
Thatcher grins at me. “Go for it. You’ve earned it.”
“This means war.”
Well, first, I can’t imagine that people live in order to become the underdog… (Like, girl, your priorities… are really out of order.) But I found it so disappointing and strangely bathetic that this was really a story about a feud between two school clubs. I’m not sure what I was expecting but certainly not this. This plot isn’t one that’s strong enough to hold for a novel let alone one that is over 300 pages. For that reason, there’s a lot of repetition (in regards to plot), not much happens, and the pace is rather slow (it seriously took me months to pioneer my way through).
And putting aside my dismay for the anticlimactic storyline, I wasn’t impressed with the execution of the route it chose to go either. The fight between the two clubs weren’t even. TALON would hurt the Newspaper team in various ways but Jules’ side would make personal attacks on the individuals of TALON, which was not okay. The Crest‘s revenge tactics just didn’t seem fair to me (and that only added more reason for me to dislike Jules; she was so blind to the fact she was hurting people-some that she was close to-so inconsiderately).
Being someone that strongly dislikes not finishing a book, I couldn’t bear to not finish The New Guy but I probably should have called it quits early on. I found myself shaking my head chanting “I just can’t” more than I would have liked, and I hardly looked forward to picking this up after I had started it. The writing probably isn’t the problem because I know a lot of people that love Amy Spalding’s other novel, Kissing Ted Callaghan (and Other Guys), which I do own and plan to read someday. Simply, it was Jules and her narration that was so off-putting to me. And though there is a plot it isn’t a very strong one that can keep readers interested for long.
In short, I think this is just one of those titles where expectations fell through. Regrettably, the only positive thing I can share about this story is that it features a protagonist that has two moms, which may be uncommon in YA lit but still isn’t enough for me to deem special.
Quotes were taken from an uncorrected advance readers copy.
Special thanks to NOVL and Poppy for sending me this review copy of The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions). In no way did this affect my reading experience or honest review.