BOOK REVIEW – Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) by Jessica ParkFlat-Out Love by Jessica Park
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omething 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.

Congrats, Flat-Out Love. Welcome to the very limited circle of books I hated. Say hello to The Perfect Game for me, would you?

Buddy read with Kat (click to read her review), who saved my sanity (thanks for the support through this!!)

But because my inner circle of doom rewards its members as they deserve, let’s start with little awards, ‘kay?

But first of all…….. Music!

► It comes as no surprise that Julie easily earns the most insufferable ès judgmental heroine medal for her endless efforts throughout the story. The jury was really impressed by the abilities she showed in being a disrespectful and arrogant friend and daughter.

Here’s a little presentation of her greatest deeds : Indeed through her constant inner monologues, we see her unfailing perseverance in making fun of others, whether she thinks they’re dumb, lame, or annoying. Kudos for never forgetting that everyone and everything is beneath her.

About her former friends : “Now she was out of small-town Ohio, out of that below average high school, and out of a social circle dominated by girls blindly cheering on their sports boyfriends.”

About her ex-boyfriend : “Speaking of Jared, Julie wondered what he was doing right now. Probably sporting a toga and doing keg stands at the miserable state university he was attending. She hoped he was lost in a crowd of dumb jocks and getting rejected by every busty, tank-top-wearing, fake-tanned airhead he hit on.”

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

About random girls she doesn’t even know (but hey, she listened to their vocal messages, I’m sure it counts somewhere) : “She didn’t know if she was jealous of that fourth roommate or not. That Sally sounded an awful lot like the perky-yet-vacant crowd she’d left behind at home. On the other hand, there was something to be said about for a core gaggle of girls who would love nothing more than to order pizza, do each others’ hair, and watch tawdry reality shows.”

Wow. She got all these details out of the way the girl says hello on her vocal message? I’m really impressed.

Her conversations with Matt, the son of the family welcoming her in their house, are full of “witty” bullying and aggressive remarks the poor guy never deserved.

“Let’s discuss your choice of attire for the evening.”
Matt hit the touchpad a few times. “Really? What aspects would you like to discuss?”
Let’s discuss how lame it is.

This is just fantastic, isn’t it? Don’t you see how CLEVER and WITTY she is? What do you mean, you DON’T? Come on. Don’t be like that. Not to mention that she does think about his life, too. Well, she doesn’t want to invite him to come along when she goes out because, well, duh, he’s so freaking beneath her (can you please follow?) but she considers keeping an eye on his sister someday to give him the occasion to attend a party. How’s that for best roommate ever, huh?

“Not that he looked like the sort who was aching to do keg stands in a frat house, but still. There might be a physics bee some Friday night, and he could return home with a nice ribbon for having spelled “coulomb” or “neutralino” correctly

Again, so freaking WITTY and CLEVER.

About her mother, in a text message : “Mom is OK. A little… lacking depth, maybe? But nice.”

Don’t worry though, because she really wants to help Celeste, the daughter of the house who is going through difficult times. Indeed she decides to take her under her wing, and manages to develop a bond between them without never making me care. That’s an achievement to behold really. What can I say, I guess that telling me that she cares isn’t enough for me to believe her. Come on. We’re talking about self-absorbed Julie here.

See, I have no problem with unlikeable characters, as soon as their behavior is acknowledged as being offensive. Never, at any point, is she called on her shit. Am I supposed to think that belittling everything and everyone is okay? That being plain bully with someone we just met is okay? That talking about a family welcoming you with your professor of psychology is okay? FUCK NO.

To be honest, at one point Kat and I considered the possibility that Julie suffered from a mental-illness because the distortion between what we see and what she describes is freaking HUGE. Don’t bother wondering, that’s not the plot twist (more about that later).

► For the unrealistic and over-the-top quirky conversations, Flat-Out Love wins the award of the most unbelievable and fake set of characters. Woohoo!

Look, I always considered myself as a nerd but by no means could I relate – or connect, at least – with any of these characters. Their interactions are ridiculous, roll-eyes worthy and more generally, completely unbelievable. Jessica Park’s writing isn’t bad, but she tries way too much to convey a sense of oddity. Her characters aren’t weird, they’re freaking cyborgs.

► Finally, for the predictable, “I-saw-it-coming-at-20%” plot “twist”, I’d like to offer Flat-Out Love the Golden Globe of easy roads. I’m sorry, but when the big revelation is obvious from 20%, I consider myself insulted in my intelligence.

☻ ☻ ☻ Now, because I want to prove that I’m not one to hold a grudge, I prepared several little games about that *cough* ridiculous *cough* story. You’re welcome. *blows kiss*

Find the words!

Complete the sentences!

Cryptogram puzzle!

Answer : View Spoiler »

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