Jeane Smith is seventeen and has turned her self-styled dorkiness into an art form, a lifestyle choice and a profitable website and consultancy business. She writes a style column for a Japanese teen magazine and came number seven in The Guardian’s 30 People Under 30 Who Are Changing The World. And yet, in spite of the accolades, hundreds of Internet friendships and a cool boyfriend, she feels inexplicably lonely, a situation made infinitely worse when Michael Lee, the most mass-market, popular and predictably all-rounded boy at school tells Jeane of his suspicion that Jeane’s boyfriend is secretly seeing his girlfriend. Michael and Jeane have NOTHING in common – she is cool and individual; he is the golden boy in an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt. So why can’t she stop talking to him?
This is my favourite of all the Manning books I have read so far. A YA contemporary rather than chick-lit, Adorkable deals with Jeane and Michael. Their lives collide when Jeane’s boyfriend and Michael’s girlfriend fall in love. (Incidentally, Manning seems to love these kinds of coincidences as this also happens in Nine Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend). What follows is an extremely loud, extremely British, rollercoaster ride.
Jeane isn’t anything that Michael Lee looks for in a girl and Michael isn’t someone that Jeane would ever consider as boyfriend material. I loved that even though it is common in YA novels, contemporary or otherwise, for the popular guy to be the one guy who is universally loved, in Adorkable, Jeane doesn’t even consider him a single whit. She simply does not get melty knees where he is concerned. At least not in the beginning. He is appealing, yes, but not to her. And he thinks she’s ugly. No, he really does. But then, in the end, he loves her anyway.
The strength in this novel comes from the author’s determination to tell a story without romanticizing it. She gives it all to us. The fights, the insane fights, the bickering, their difference in philosophies, the insecurities and the flaws. Oh she does not hold back on the flaws at all. But she also shows the sweet parts. How their romance starts, their gradual procession to being more than kissing buddies. How both of them, in their own twisted ways, make the other’s life a bit more meaningful. I loved the portion where Jeane spends time with Michael’s family because her own is so messed up.
When a book makes you cry and makes you laugh, you know it’s a winner. I spent a lot of time hating Jeane and thinking not so nice thoughts about Michael but when you reach the end, it is with a bang. Jeane learns some life lessons, important ones and finds some truth about herself that she may have not wanted to know. But at the same time, Michael grows as a person, too, sloughing off his superficiality and becoming man enough to accept Jeane for what she is, no, more than that, to make sure she remains the way she is: loud, hostile and colourful.
Do I recommend this to you? Oh definitely. One of the best contemporaries I’ve read in a long time. This one is no Anna and the French Kiss. In fact, I think it might be better. Yes, I said it.