Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
So Emma Mills book, Now and Then, was actually the first book I received in my Uppercase box subscription. This is the second Mills book I've gotten from them, but the first I've read. I received it in the December 2017 Uppercase box. I know this book also came in an Owlcrate box, with a slightly different colored cover. Mills has written three books, with the third being titled This Adventure Ends.
Title: Foolish Hearts
Author: Emma Mills
Page Number: 320, hardcover edition
Genre: Young Adult, contemporary romance, fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co., a part of Macmillan Publishing Group, which is under the Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.
The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.
This book was a bit of a palette cleanser for me. I read it after a Danish murder mystery book and was looking for something light. I found this book to be adorable. I thought it was somewhat inclusive and diverse (YA tends to be better at this I think) and missed many of the tropes that might have bogged it down.
The main character is Claudia Wallace. Claudia is at a party with other girls from her school, the extravagantly named Prospect-Landower School for Girls, and overhears the breakup of the school's "it" couple. Claudia is hiding in the bathroom when Iris Huang and her girlfriend, Paige, breakup spectacularly. Paige is popular and loved by everyone in the school whilst Iris is considered rude and cold. Iris is furious with Claudia after Claudia comes out of the bathroom. ALL of this activity happens in the first chapter so it starts off with a really cringy moment.
Pretty much all the girls at the school side with Paige during the breakup, leaving Iris without a partner in English class. Claudia is also without partner, because while Claudia is liked she hasn't made any tight friends in school. The work they produce is bad enough that the teacher offers them a do-over: try out for the school play, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Over the course of the book, Iris and Claudia begin to form a friendship through sharing their interests with each other. Iris is a fan of a boy band called TION, which reminded me of all the boy band fandom through history. Claudia is an avid player of a online game called BattleQuest. Both girls are awkward in their own way, either by kookiness or perceived meanness.
Claudia also meets a boy named Gideon Prewitt, a student from the neighboring Danforth Preparatory, who is also trying out for the school play. Gideon is goofy, cute, likable and popular and he takes a shine to Claudia right away. It takes longer for Claudia to like Gideon because she struggles with self-doubt and fear of rejection.
The way Mills writes secondary characters is so well-rounded. Other characters include Paige, other girls from the school/play, Claudia's best friend Zoe, and Gideon's best friend Noah. Mills does realistic conversation well, which is nice.
I think something to note is that this book avoids some tropes and embraces a more positive outlook. For instance, instead of 'one girl against the world trope' (the special one that doesn't have any friends, etc), the book focuses on female friendship. Not only Claudia and Iris, but Claudia and Zoe, Iris and Paige, Iris and other girls at the school, Claudia and other girls at the school and although not female, Gideon and his friend Noah. It's a nice change of pace. Another trope I noticed that Mills avoids is the 'unpopular girl + popular boy' trope. While Gideon seems to be quite popular and liked, I would argue that Claudia is well liked although she does suffer from self doubt. There is a trope of misunderstanding between many characters but it does get resolved.
I think I rated this a 4 or 5. It was just a wonderful and happy read.
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