Yes, multiple book reviews for today because EVERYTHING GOT AWAY FROM ME! As usual. Anyone have a theme song for me?
April 27, 2021
Blurb: Mercedes Helnwein’s Slingshot is an exciting debut contemporary young adult novel perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Mary H. K. Choi
“I didn’t think it was going to be anything like this when I finally fell in love. I thought it was going to be pretty simple. Like, I’d love someone and they’d love me. I thought that’s the way it worked.”
Grace Welles is stuck at a third-tier boarding school in the swamps of Florida, where her method of survival is a strict, self-imposed loneliness. And it works. Her crap attitude keeps people away because without friends, there are fewer to lose.
But when she accidentally saves the new kid, Wade Scholfield, from being beaten up, everything about her precariously balanced loner world collapses and, in order to find her footing again, she has no choice but to discover a completely new way to exist.
Because with Wade around, school rules are optional, weird is okay, and conversations about wormholes can lead to make-out sessions that disrupt any logical stream of thought. Nothing’s perfect, but that’s not the point. When they’re together everything seems uncomplicated in a way that Grace knows is not possible.
Except it is.
So why does Grace crush Wade’s heart into a million pieces?
Acidly funny and compulsive readable, this debut is a story about two people finding each other and then screwing it all up. See also: soulmate, stupidity, sex, friendship, bad poetry, very bad decisions and all the indignities of being in love for the first time.
Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein is probably one of the most, if not the most, complicated young adult novel I’ve read this year and certainly in recent memory. And I mean that in the best possible way as Helnwein has created characters in Grace and Wade who are having to deal with secret, harsh pains in a world where different is ridiculed and bullied. The plot is, at first glance, simple but as the reader moves forward through the novel, we understand that nothing is simple in the world of Slingshot.
I imagine that the first obstacle for many readers of ya novels with their typical either perfect or sullen main characters will be the character of Grace who is frequently jarring. Oh, yeah, Grace can be hard to take even with a lump of sugar. But. But, she grows on you as much as she makes you cringe. She’s high strung, emotional, and walking on a proverbial tight-rope. And the things she says and does can sometimes make you want to crawl into yourself.
And then she falls in first love with Wade, a boy who is sweet, respectful, smart, and hiding his own painful secret, until an event occurs that makes Grace backtrack.
Slingshot is very much a character-driven novel, and these characters, especially Grace, are not the ones we typically expect from ya, even hard-edged ya. That, for me, is what makes this novel work so well. Grace’s reactions are real. They arise from that deep animal passion we have inside ourselves that we either let out to play or hide away. She does the things we sometimes think about but would never do. Enacts the revenge we considered on a dark day and then wishes she hadn’t, but one can never take back the actions that one has performed. One must live with the consequences and hope for better.
This is one of the few ya novels that I’ve thought I would like to see a sequel to, perhaps in about ten years, to see where Grace and Wade wind up, who they become. One of the things I love about ya novels is that we see young people on the cusp of great decisions that will forever change their lives, regardless of whether they make the huge decisions or not. And with the better written ya novels where the characters matter and not just the plot, I want to know where they end up in their 20s.
While I sometimes had difficulties with Grace and understand why and why she was written the way she was, I do recommend Slingshot with the caveat that if you are used to reading typical ya novels, that you store your preconceived notions and conventions away for this one. I think by doing that, you will have a greater appreciation of this complex novel.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
4 butterflies and a ladybug out of 5 butterflies