Title: The Art of Lainey
Author: Paula Stokes
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.
And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?
I’ve been hearing about this debut in the blogosphere for a while now, but I’ve mostly ignored all the chatter. The cover didn’t really catch my eye, so I was shallow and didn’t bother checking it out. After a lot of rave reviews, though, I finally decided to give it a shot – and I am so very glad I did.
From the very beginning, I was really into this story. I knew from some reviews that Lainey, the main character, wasn’t your typical YA protagonist – she was popular, a tad shallow, regularly got spray tans, and didn’t like reading. I expected to dislike her initially and to warm up to her as the book went on, but right away I loved Lainey. Yes, she wasn’t the typical protagonist and she was so different from me, but she was funny and endearing and interesting. Her personality, in addition to other interesting characters and an enjoyable premise, all made this a truly fun book from the very beginning, without any awkward introductions.
In the very first chapter, Lainey is dumped by her long-time boyfriend out of nowhere – and that one event jumpstarts the whole plot. Lainey, along with her amazing best friend Bianca, are using The Art of War for strategies to get the boyfriend back. The basic plot is the war to get Jason back, but there’s so much more to this story than a girl who can’t accept that she got dumped. Lainey truly grows throughout the story, and not just because she starts listening to an old Chinese warlord.
Lainey wasn’t the only great character in this story. I can have some issues with female best friends in YA books, unfortunately, but Lainey’s best friend, Bianca, was amazing. I loved every scene she was in and I loved how she was always there for Lainey, even when Lainey wasn’t being the greatest best friend. I was interested in Lainey’s other best friend, even though said friend was not the kind of ideal friend that you want to read about. There were plenty of interesting and fun secondary characters as well as the great main characters, so even if I weren’t interested in the story, I would have loved reading this book simply to read about the characters.
This is the second or third book in the last few months that has taken place in a suburb of St. Louis, so it was interesting reading more about this city that’s always been a part of my DNA thanks to so many relatives living in the area but I’ve never truly known. This means there are some quirky and interesting places that I really want to check out now, but overall, the setting was kind of generic.
The Adult Situation
Even though Lainey’s parents seemed like interesting characters just like many others, they weren’t around much. There are some small reasons to explain this absence, but I wish we could have seen them more. Lainey’s mother especially sounds interesting, especially with her job as a professor and her hobby of reading tea leaves. I would have loved reading more about them, as well as Lainey’s older brother, but they were very much background characters who didn’t have big presences in the book.
When you have two character you like together in a will-they-or-won’t-they-but-you-totally-know-they-will relationship, it’s easy to like the relationship even if it’s not that interesting. The relationship is that and more – because it has genuinely adorable moments of bonding and such that I would like even a little bit even if it were a couple I didn’t like. I loved this couple, though – I was cheering for Lainey and Micah to just be together in scenes even if they weren’t being romantic because they tended to be so much fun and adorable.
There was some drama at the end that I could have done without, but I was having too much fun reading about these characters to really care. Everything works out well in the end, with plenty of cute moments and growing and such, and I just didn’t care if I had to slog through some unnecessary drama first.
Overall, this was a huge surprise hit. I wasn’t expecting to like this book at all, but it was a great debut and seems destined to be one of the, if not the, best debuts I’ve read this year.