Harlequin UK, 2013
[New release: June 18th, 2013]
In her second year of high school Rose Zarelli is determined to become Rose 2.0 - as in, innovative...superior...improved.
Improved how? Well, Rose is setting some ground rules. This year she absolutely most definitely will NOT:
1) do things just because other people want her to
2) randomly shoot her mouth off
3) worry about whether she’s someone’s girlfriend—or not.
And most important of all she determined to tell off Jamie Forta, the boy who might just have broken her heart, once and for all and move on.
After all she’s older and smarter now. She can totally pull this off.
How hard can it be? Right? Right?
This book reignited my faith in contemporary YA, after a couple of dud books recently. It didn't totally blow me away, but it was smart, realistic and the ending made me do a little mental dance along the lines of YESSSSSSSS. THIS.
I haven't read the prequel to this, and although I think it might be better to read them in order, it was easy enough to pick up the basics - Rose had a pretty crappy freshman year, got socially ostracised and lost out on the boy she liked, and made a couple of enemies along the way. Now she's preparing for her sophomore year, and she's trying hard to think positive. This is, of course, easier said than done, not least because Rose is stuck in therapy with her mother, is still grieving her father's death (and lacking many people to share that with), and has a deteriorating relationship with her older brother. And if she was hoping for a low-key school year, that's pretty much shattered when she interrupts a vicious initiation at an end-of-summer party, marking her out yet again as public enemy number one.
Rose was a great main character. She seemed realistic and multi-faceted, and although she has a lot of issues she always felt like more than just those issues. There were shades of grey to everything, which I appreciated. Ultimately, she's a good-hearted person trying her best to do the right thing, without always knowing how to figure out what the right thing might be.
Although there is a significant romance plot, it rarely felt like the driving force. Rose has a confusing non-relationship with Jamie, full of contradictions, mixed messages and confusion on both sides. Rozett acknowledges that high school relationships aren't always simple, and they certainly don't always run from A to B without a hitch. There was a nice subtlety to the evolution of their relationship, which again was another strong point for me.
Instead, there is a focus on Rose's burgeoning singing talent and her quest to find a style and performance that works for her. (You might be relieved to know that this metaphor of 'finding her own voice' was in no way tortured, which could have so easily made me throw the book across the room.) I wasn't entirely convinced by the introduction of this storyline at first - I was worried Rose was suddenly going to become the star of the high school musical ("Who knew she was such a STAR?!"), but instead there were a few false starts and some credible soul-searching from Rose.
I really liked Angelo (although we get some palpable relief that Angelo got rid of his "long, greasy", "crazy" hair and "transformed" - seriously YA authors, long-haired boys aren't all dope-fuelled slackers who need a good wash) - he and Rose had a cool friendship and I liked how he played a part in making Rose see she could be good at something and stand out from the crowd in a way she wanted.
Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend is a fast, smart slice of contemporary YA with a believable, conflicted protagonist and plenty of strands of story to keep you hooked. Although if you don't like unresolved endings, you might want to wait until the release date for #3 before you dive in... ;)
Overall rating: 6.5/10
Book source: ebook ARC received from Netgalley.