Book Review: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Synopsis: He was tall, at least six feet, with dirty blond hair that hung over his eyes. His T-shirt read Nietzsche Is My Homeboy.

So, that was Matt. Who Julie Seagle likes. A lot. But there is also Finn. Who she flat out loves.

Complicated? Awkward? Completely.

But really, how was this freshly-minted Boston transplant and newbie college freshman supposed to know that she would end up living with the family of an old friend of her mother's? This was all supposed to be temporary. Julie wasn't supposed to be important to the Watkins family, or to fall in love with one of the brothers. Especially the one she's never quite met. But what does that really matter? Finn gets her, like no one ever has before. They have connection.

But here's the thing about love, in all its twisty, bumpy permutations—it always throws you a few curves. And no one ever escapes unscathed.

Pages: 391 (Kindle: 389)

Rating: 8/10

Overall: Despite some style issues, a really enjoyable book with a fantastically messed up characters. And the plot twist has you flipping pages frantically through to the end. Set in wintry Boston, it's perfect for curling up with a cup of tea in the winter.
Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love, #1)

First off, I ended up really enjoying this book despite initially having problems with style (which I'll get to later). Julie is a brand new college student who finds herself stranded in Boston with nowhere to live. After some frantic calls home, her mum sorts her out with some temporary accommodation at an old college friend's house.

So Julie is introduced to this old friend's family, and suffice to say they have some peculiarities. Erin, her mum's friend, and her husband Roger are practically absentee parents, with Matt, the youngest son, playing carer to Celeste, the youngest and only daughter. Celeste is perhaps the most interesting and, well quite frankly, the most messed up in the family. Most noticeably she insists on carrying around a full size cutout of their other absentee family member, her oldest brother, Finn. This cutout is appropriately named Flat Finn. Yeah, messed up. But as characters, they are all interesting, especially Matt and Celeste. They are particularly well-developed, by first impressions and throughout.

The problem for Julie is that she, and by proxy us, have no idea what messed this family up. Fair play to Julie she accepts these quirks, including Flat Finn, rather well. In fact, she treats Flat Finn like Celeste does: a real live person.

Very quickly, Julie ingratiates herself with Celeste, pushing her beyond what Celeste thinks she is capable of. The family notice that Julie could 'help' with Celeste, so they offer to let Julie stay for the rest of her freshman year in exchange for babysitting services.

The lack of information that the family are sharing with Julie about Celeste often becomes a point of contention, as Julie struggles to understand… well, anything. In fact, her only point of call seems to be the real 3D version of Finn who she chats to through Facebook. Finn provides small snippets of information but crucially not the whole story. But Finn also provides someone to talk to who understands her situation. So of course a romance develops…

I don't want to say what happens because I was completely in the dark like Julie right up until the big reveal, but let's just say I was impressed with the plot twist (and there were almost a few tears!).

However, despite how much I enjoyed Flat-Out Love, I did have some problems. Particularly at the start, as they seemed to not be there as much in the last half. Maybe I just got used to them...?

It reads like a first-person narrative but it's in the third person. There were a couple of moments when I was wondering who the hell Julie was before realising she was the main character! The book is completely from Julie's perspective, as in you know what she knows, so a third-person POV doesn't really feel right for the type of book the Flat-Out Love is.

My other gripe was spoken dialogue that sounded forced. Initially the dialogue came across as forced because everything Julie said was a witty remark or a cutting comment. While I can appreciate that Julie has a certain sharp wit, no one can be witty 100% of the time. It also felt forced in the way that conversations did not flow quite like real conversations do. No one seemed to interrupt either themselves or others, or lose the thread of their own thoughts… in some cases, about 4 questions were answered in one fell swoop of a paragraph.

Conversely, the internet chats felt much more true to life, but then again those sort of conversations to get the luxury of time to compose one's thoughts before 'speaking'.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Flat-Out Love. I thought the story was very interesting and different to many other things that I've read. Probably the closest book it reminds me of is Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, but it's a loose connection.

Flat-Out Love stands on its own, but it has a companion novella, Flat-Out Matt, which is Flat-Out Love from Matt's perspective. I think it would be interesting to see some of this story from Matt's perspective, as it might explain some of the backstory more fully.

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