Honesty time: If the FNC hadn't been contacted to be part of the blog tour, I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. It's about a high school senior who's on the fast track to marriage, which is about as far as you can get from my senior year experience/mentality (who needs a boyfriend?) -- so not something I could relate to.
Then I saw that Cheryl Klein was the editor (her books are made of awesome), and I remembered that I wanted to read more YA contemporary this year. Sold!
I'm SO glad that I agreed to do the review, because this book was well worth the read -- and now I'm recommending it to you!
Well, the plot's pretty straightforward...
Here Comes the Bride -- If She Can Pass Chemistry.
Eighteen-year-old Bronwen Oliver has a secret: She's really Phoebe, the lost daughter of the loving Lilywhite family. That's the only way to explain her image-obsessed mother; a kind but distant stepfather; and a brother with a small personality complex. Bronwen knows she must have been switched at birth, and she can't wait to get away from her "family" for good.
Then she meets Jared Sondervan. He's sweet, funny, everything she wants -- and he has the family Bronwen has always wanted too. She falls head over heels in love, and when he proposes marriage, she joyfully accepts. But is Jared truly what she needs? And if he's not, she has to ask: What would Phoebe Lilywhite do?... but the execution is what really makes the book stand out. McCahan is fabulous at writing characters. Fabulous. So whether or not you understand their point of view, you want to read about them. They pretty much leap off the page.
Bronwen's family is hilarious and heartbreaking. I can totally understand why Bronwen wants to become Someone Else, why she fantasized about being Phoebe Lilywhite. What I love about McCahan's portrayal of the Olivers is how NOT awful they are. They're flawed but aren't demonized, and though they're quirky, it never becomes caricature-ish or outrageous. Depth and humor are woven in their interactions very naturally. (And, hey, a YA book with parents!)
I read the book crossing my fingers that the romance between Jared and Bronwen didn't make me cringe with overwhelming "OMG I'd die if we weren't together forever"-ness. McCahan didn't lean that way at all. It was sweet and genuine and true to their ages and experience levels. And though I'd never have considered getting married at 18, I understood why Bronwen would. (Jared's so swoon-worthy!)
And because I talk about sex in YA whenever possible, I can't NOT mention that Bronwen has chosen to wait until marriage, for super-practical, non-religious reasons. It's a refreshing POV in YA, and I think that even readers who disagree with Bronwen's logic would find it a valid, reasonable, non-preachy choice for her character. Yayyyy diversity!
Bronwen herself is a great MC. I loved getting inside her head, and her voice was totally clear. Plus, the character development made complete sense and felt natural within the plot. I'm SO Team Bronwen.
|Photo by Nancy Lambert|
But the characters wouldn't be so awesome without the witty, entertaining humor that McCahan has infused in the dialogue and scenes. I frequently read it with a smile on my face -- looking like a complete idiot, of course.
Overall, I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU is a feel-good contemporary YA with depth. It's solidly written and super enjoyable, a great deviation from your traditional YA novel. (It reminds me of a lighter version of Twenty Boy Summer, another fabulous contemporary novel.)
My only complaint? Though the title's cute, it's SO FREAKIN' LONG to say or type!
Seriously. That's the only thing I can complain about.
Go read this book!
*** Stay tuned tomorrow for a giveaway of I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU! ***
To buy: on Amazon
To read more: Editor Cheryl Klein interviews author Erin McCahan