Books · REVIEWS

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

“It’s not what you know-or when you see-that matters. It’s about the journey.”

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it.

When Julie’s off-campus housing falls through, her mother’s old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side … and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there’s that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That’s because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie’s suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that … well … doesn’t quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

Personal Thoughts:

When I decided to pick-up and read Flat Out Love I have no intentions of writing a review for this book. I am just looking for a good read with no worries about obligations to promote or anything. After I’m done reading and re-reading (yes, I already re-read the book, just few hours after I finished it the first time) I just can’t skip writing something about it. It certainly deserves a space here on the blog.

As a self-published book Flat-Out Love is unexpectedly neat. For a novel that doesn’t undergo to professional editing process this is definitely one of the most error-free that I have encountered. Jessica Park successfully created a well written, addictive and worth reading contemporary novel in this one. I am really glad that she didn’t give up publishing this beautiful book.

The characters were all engaging and realistically portrayed. They made it incredibly easy to get lose in the story. Julie is dedicated, smart and sarcastic in a witty and hilarious way. She isn’t perfect and like any regular person she needs to deal with a lot of things. When she moved to Boston for studies she immediately found out that her housing fell through. With the help of her mother she find herself living with the Watkins family.

The family dynamic of the Watkins alone is interesting enough to handle the whole plot. They are quirky, unique and intriguing that it is so easy to get invested with them. Celeste, the youngest member of the family is simply adorable. It is impossible not to love her. She is precocious, sweet, bright and extremely quirky. I feel speechless everytime she talks with her wide range of vocabulary. She is the big piece of the puzzle for me and every time I encounter her I know that what happened to her holds the secrets of the Watkins family. I keep of analyzing her to the point that I almost over analyzed the situation. So many possibilities run to my mind and like Julie I haven’t seen right away the obvious.

“You can look back now and see how you should have known, but you were focusing on the facts instead of the feeling.”

The oldest of the Watkins siblings is Finn. He is adventurous kind of guy and really loves to travel. Apparently gorgeous, smart and sensitive. While he was gone, Celeste misses him so much so she has this Flat version of Finn, a cardboard cut out of Finn which she called Flat Finn.

Then there is Matthew, the middle of the three siblings. He alone is enough reason to read this book. The moment he entered in the picture I instantly like him. He is a geek and really proud of it, which in a way makes him more charming in my opinion. I think he can do no wrong for me. I admire his devotion to Celeste, I enjoy his geeky sense of humor and even adore his geeky shirts. The banter between him and Julie are playful, hilarious and insightful. I really enjoy reading those parts and I think those are the best part of this book. It keeps the atmosphere light and entertaining.

Mr. and Mrs. Watkins though rarely present in the story were both accommodating and helpful to Julie. Julie is almost a total stranger to them but they accept her to their home and treat her like their own child. It is rare to find such a family like that.

“The friends you make in college are friends you’ll have for life, even if you don’t talk for years at a time.”

The slow building romance is sweet and subtle but really sent me to a lot of different emotions. It breaks my heart at some point and then heal it again. I am just glad that I didn’t guess right away the situation because I think if I knew from the start what is the secret of the Watkins family, I may not experience the same level of thrill and emotions that I experienced while reading. And I still guessed it right afterall, just before the actual revelation come up. It is not Celeste that give me clue but rather a necklace that serves a thoughtful gift for Julie.

Another big part of the story is the use of social media. The status updates with each chapters are hilarious, witty and creative. It is tempting to post them as status update in my own social networking account :). Those simple and quick updates from characters simply shows their own personal depth. It give chance to readers to feel more the characters emotions and feelings at the time.

“I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else.
It’s the way I take them OFF that makes me better than you.”

Flat-Out Love simply took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. It made me smile, laugh and fall in love but it also made my heart ache and my eyes misty. Jessica Park successfully weaved a story of a fragile family that has to deal with what life throw them. Like in the story each of us has our own way of coping up when we miss someone. When we are face with difficulties we are entitled to shutdown for a while but we also need to reboot our selves and face the issues. And during this low moments we will see how people who love us are willing to do everything for us.

Overall, Flat-Out Love is an honest and unique story about a dysfunctional family, that is filled with humor, romance and quirks. It is beautiful, sweet, hilarious, heart breaking and everything in between. A definitely must try read for all contemporary readers out there.

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