Monday, March 29, 2010

Come Go With Me: Something Like Fate

Lately, I've been getting into romances.  Not because I'm an especially romantic individual--readers who know me personally are cracking up at the understatement of the year right now--but for other reasons.  First, the authors aren't trying to save the world.  I feel like too many books these days are trying to be The Great American Novel.  Yo, authors, not everyone is Harper Lee or Wally Lamb, and that's okay.  Jokes that aren't cynical and edgy and endings that aren't wrist-slittingly depressing are not only cool, but they're welcome.

Second, contrary to the bodice-ripper stereotype, many romances center around intelligent women and the relationships that are important to them: of course, the romantic relationship is the central focus (as the genre dictates), but often family and friends play important parts in the story as well.  What makes these heroines so compelling is that their lives are full--not just with people, but with jobs and passions--even before the protaga-dude steps into town.  I don't know about you, but for me, that's real, and it's enjoyable to read.

Which brings me to this week's Awesome Authors book, Susane Colasanti's Something Like Fate.  Strictly speaking, this could be qualified as YA romance.  The heroine is sensitive and smart, and treasures the people in her life--which includes but is not exclusive to the gorgeous, kind boy--but is faced with complications to balance these relationships.  Sure, I knew the happy ending was coming--which is in fact a comfort--but I was compelled to go along for the ride.  And the characters are good eggs, stuck in situations that may seem insignificant in twenty years, but for right now, are all they've got in the world.

The plot in a nutshell: Lani and Erin are best friends in a small New Jersey town.  Erin's popular, Lani left that crowd a couple years back to do her own thing: she's really big on green living, exploring the concept of fate, and hanging with her closeted pal Blake.  The girls aren't as close as they used to be, but still share a deep bond from a near-tragedy that occurred when they were in grade school.  When Erin declares regulation hottie Jason her new object of affection, Lani obligingly scopes him out--but finds herself falling for Jason as well.  When Lani shares not only a physical attraction but an emotional connection with Jason, what's a good girl to do?

Maybe not the most original plotline in the world, but most writers and readers will argue that there's about five stories in the world anyway--the important part is how you tell them.  One of my biggest beefs with recent YA fiction is that some authors try too hard to be edgy, and it's painfully obvious when it's not coming from a real place.  Something Like Fate keeps it simple, and I like that.  Plus, what's more universal than crushing on someone you're not supposed to?  Or hanging on to a friendship because of shared history?  Way more relatable than lusting after an abstinent vampire, that's for sure.  And while there's a lot to be said for the escapism of fantasy, it's lovely to balance it out with a book that's grounded.  The subplot with Blake was well-done and sadly familiar without veering into cliche.  As always, I love Colasanti's music references: Death Cab forever!  Finally, the cover is purple, my favorite color in the whole world.  What can I say?  I love a pretty cover.

The one issue I did have with Something Like Fate was this: I thought the author was too kind to Jason at times.  I'm not going to give anything away, but I will say that both Lani and Jason make ill-advised decisions, but it's Lani who solely receives the blame.  Granted, this is pretty typical of high school--hell, it's pretty typical of the grown-up world, which is sad.  However, I would have liked a little more self-awareness on Lani and Jason's part.  Jason's not perfect.  I would have liked him anyway, maybe even more, had he realized and owned up to his faulty behavior--and I would have still liked Lani had she called him on it.  He's got a good heart, but even the best guys do make mistakes.

Overall, however, I found Something Like Fate to be the literary equivalent of green jasmine tea with tons of honey.  Calming, comforting, and just the way I like it.

Now, ladies and germs, it's ARMCHAIR CASTING DIRECTOR TIME!

I don't know about y'all, but when I read and write, I like to picture in my head what the characters look like. (Start singing "The Movie in My Mind" from Miss Saigon.  You know you want to!)  Blame my obsession with IMDb or my theatre background, but I always like to think about who would play a character (whether it's written by me or someone else) in the movie.  And when I say "movie," I mean "film cast with the utmost precision and respect for the readers," not "pile of steaming garbage with Shia LaBeouf as Henry Higgins."

In short, there is no game I heart more than armchair casting director.  Brief disclaimer: my choices don't always make sense in terms of age or era.  I often like to think of the younger versions of actors way too old for the characters--if that's because much of Young Hollywood leaves me cold or I'm just strange, I don't know.

Anyway, here's who I was picturing as the main characters in Something Like Fate:

Lani: Zooey Deschanel

She's got the ethereal intelligence combined with the healthy glow that can only come from avoiding soda pop.  Plus, Lani has bangs!

Erin: Arielle Kebbel

Textbook relatable golden girl.  Whether she's Dean's wife on Gilmore Girls or the type A woman scorned in the surprisingly good John Tucker Must Die, Kebbel's a natural beauty.  True, she could rock the fake tan and hair extensions typical to L.A. actresses, but she doesn't need to.

Blake: Jacob Zachar

I always like it when the gay friend isn't a stereotype.  Not only is Zachar adorable, but he can convey real vulnerability and emotion when the role calls for it.  Have you seen Greek?  If not, get thee to Hulu.  (I'm probably prejudiced because he's a local boy.  My crushworthy former coworker was in a band with him.)

Jason: Hunter Parrish

Ohhh yeah.  He's all kinds of dreamy (and he's 23, so it's not too gross for me to say that).  Maybe it's because I associate him with Weeds, but Parrish has a whimsical granola vibe to him that would work great for Jason.  I would totally swoon over this dude in the high school hallway, that's for sure.

(Memo to Nikki: I know I totally used the same Parrish pic as you did on your blog, but it's the cutest one I could find.  :)

My two cents:
We all think of first love as simple, but that's the musings of a nostalgia-heavy generation.  The truth is, love is never simple.  Something Like Fate conveys this with gentle aplomb, making for a relaxing, optimistic read. Good stuff.

Something Like Fate will be released May 4.  Click here to pre-order, and here to read my interview with the book's author, Susane Colasanti!

Liked Awesome Authors Month?  You're in luck--thanks to an unexpected ARC and another excellent writer who said yes to an interview, the read-y/write-y fun will continue for two more weeks.  Stay tuned, y'all!


  1. Cool review. I'm not really into romances, but you made it sound really interesting.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks, Sadako--compliments from you mean a lot. :)

    Just to clarify, however, Something Like Fate is not technically "romance," it's YA. I thought its emphasis on relationships really reminded me of the romance genre, partly due to the fact that I've been reading a lot of romance fiction lately. You should definitely read it, though.

  4. I like the "casting director" feature! Whenever I read, I always envision the characters, sometimes like this. Very cool

  5. I heard from the author--apparently, she liked my choices. :)

    Between her comment and yours, EB, I've decided Armchair Casting Director will be a feature of every book I review. Yay!

  6. Yes, I'm a little in love with Hunter Parrish. I was so relieved to find out he's much older than Silas. It makes me feel less...statutory rapey.

    Also, this sounds like chicken soup reading!

  7. Haha, Nikki, I think I said in a long-ago post that now that I'm almost 30, I get why teenage characters are so often played by twentysomethings. Besides the pesky labor laws, it's so people in our demographic can lust without feeling guilty--and therefore, we'll tune in.

    "Chicken soup reading" is a perfect way to describe Something Like Fate. I read much of the ARC on a train ride after a long day at work. Between the rhythm of the train and the calming effect of the book, I was very soothed by the time I got to my destination!

  8. All four works by Susane Colasanti are now on, ready to cast - - who do YOU see in the movie? We ARE the premier "fantasy casting" website. If you routinely 'cast' the books you read - or would like to see who other people picked - we're the place to do it.