Author: Jessica Park

180 Seconds by Jessica Park

180 Seconds by Jessica Park180 Seconds by Jessica Park
Published by Skyscape on April 25th 2017
Pages: 300
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three-stars

Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.

Jessica Park isn’t a new author to at all, but having loved ‘Flat-Out Love’ and the way it dealt with personality quirks, death and tragedy, I dove into ‘189 Seconds’ wondering if I was going to get the same kind of student-angst and the identity crisis that still assail young adults that we got in her ‘Flat Out’ series.

In some way, ‘180 Seconds’ is similar, as it puts the emotional effects of being shoved from foster home to foster home and the cycle of hope/rejection in the spotlight, where a popular social media ‘influencer’ so to speak and one social experiment have the power to change how an introverted, aloof and antisocial girl might see the world.

To make a world a happier place because he can (the number of followers can’t hurt either) is not a worldview that I’ve ever held, so to read about Esben’s optimistic worldview is jarring to say the least. That social, outgoing nature of his, as Jessica Park writes, is both intimidating and infectious, though it is not all roses and sunshine that drive him only to see humanity in all its good.

But oh, to have that kind of dewey-eyed, collegiate enthusiasm that Esben Baylor has because my practical, cynical self protests that 180 seconds can change the world, at least, some people’s entire outlook on things. It was almost a given that I was fairly incredulous when the social experiment conducted with Allison ended up with a mad kiss (throwing of a table and chair included, in a passionate fit) after 3 full minutes worth of raging, smouldering looks tossed between 2 people.

There’s also a dreamy, movie-quality to how things play out as it skirts the edge of melodrama. Even as the story rushes to its inevitable climax and Allison runs from a crushing blow, Park circles back to the power of Esben’s and Allison’s initial 180 seconds, and the amount of love that has resulted from it. Can it really change a life? Maybe. Maybe not. Still, Park’s continual reaffirmation of the good in people is what makes ‘180 Seconds’ a feel-good read, because in this NA world, optimism and love (in spite of tragedy) still win.

three-stars

Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park

Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica ParkFlat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park
Series: Flat-Out Love, #2
Published by CreateSpace on May 22nd 2014
Pages: 336
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three-stars

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation.
But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.
Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him.
Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.
Whether you were charmed by Celeste in Flat-Out Love or are meeting her for the first time, this book is a joyous celebration of differences, about battling private wars that rage in our heads and in our hearts, and—very much so— this is a story about first love.

I’ve always wondered what it took to plumb the maladjusted depths of Celeste. The answer, it seems, is revealed in Flat-out Celeste, the sequel to Jessica Park’s first 2 books, where Celeste finally makes her way out of high-school and into college.

But brushing off her own stiff weirdness (at least to her classmates) wasn’t something she’d given much thought to, until it becomes apparent that she’d be expected to part of the extreme social interactions of college life. The quest to reinvent herself and the attempts to do so are painfully but hilariously disastrous…and yet, at the end of the line is a boy whose flightiness and strangeness complements her own dysfunction and deliberate detachment from the world at large.

I’d adored Matt and Julie’s story (and was alarmed to find out here that it didn’t quite work out for them at all) but didn’t hesitate to pick this one up to see where it led me. But like many coming-of-age books, I’m wary of the extremes of emotional states and the exaggerations that come with the narrative. By the end of the book, I wasn’t entirely convinced about Celeste, whose particular combination of quirks has always and as I’ve just found out, still rub me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong; there were extremely funny bits but they couldn’t outweigh the ongoing melodrama and the pseudo-teenage philosophical platitudes that kept coming in relentless waves up until she got together with Justin. And though the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to signal Celeste’s own HEA, I still found actually thinking that I wanted more of Matt and Julie – who were supposed to be peripheral characters here – in a book that wasn’t supposed to be theirs.

three-stars