Abram and Juliette have circled each other for a while the way people do when they go to the same school and live down the street from each other. Their lives only become inextricably linked when Abram’s father and Juliette’s mother die. In a car crash. Together.
In the wake of the crash Abram and Juliette are both left reeling with grief and confusion over their parents’ affair and sudden deaths. With few other coping mechanisms in sight Abram ends up on anti-depressants while Juliette self-medicates with Adderall.
They never should have been friends. Except Abram likes Juliette and decides to say hello to her at CVS. No one is more surprised than Juliette when she agrees to go with Abram to Taco Bell. That’s when what starts as a tenuous friendship might turn into something neither of them saw coming in Finding Mr. Brightside (2015) by Jay Clark.
Finding Mr. Brightside alternates between Abram’s and Juliette’s first person narration.
Because this book is so slim (224 pages, hardcover), much of the plot and character development is pushed off page with very little foundation to support the relationship between the two main characters. The plot also moves very abruptly from their first meeting to going off on a five day vacation together.
Juliette and Abram are both damaged, honest characters. Abram comes off as a likable slacker while Juliette is brittle and high-strung. Unfortunately they are also both thinly drawn beyond those key traits.
Juliette is particularly problematic. While her quirks and fears come from a very authentic place, the portrayal is fundamentally flawed. Every time Juliette contemplates her sexuality, even vaguely, she refers to herself as a whore. Furthermore, in asking Abram if he is attracted to another girl, Juliette repeatedly refers to a girl (a character referred to but never seen) as “that Asian.” With the proper treatment, both behaviors can have their place in fiction. Unfortunately they are presented here without further comment and serve only to leave a bad taste in a reader’s mouth.
Finding Mr. Brightside is a fast and sometimes sweet story. It is also not a romance in the truest sense. What this story is–and what it does well, flaws aside–is focus on the recovery process accompanying a tragic loss and the people that can help others move past those dark moments.
Possible Pairings: Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, Teach Me to Forget by Erica M. Chapman, Last Night at the Circle Cinema by Emily Franklin, How to Steal a Car by Pete Hautman, The After Girls by Leah Konen, Rx by Tracy Lynn, When We Collided by Emery Lord, The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
*An advance copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher*