My Best Friend, Maybe
By Caela Carter
Expected publication June 3, 2014 by Bloomsbury Childrens
Colette tries hard to be perfect, but, honestly, perfect is lonely. In fact, she's been lonely for years, since a falling-out with her best friend Sadie. So, when Sadie asks Colette to go to Greece with her, saying she needs her, how can Coley say no?
Bloomsbury is one of my favorite publisher booths to visit at conferences. The staff is always friendly and knowledgeable about their titles, eager to let me know what they're most excited about and what they think has the biggest potential. This was one the titles they handed to me at the ALA Midwinter conference. With its pub date rapidly approaching, I finally picked it up.
I'm always pleased to see new titles dealing with sexuality, so I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. From the beginning, I had a hard time relating to Coley. She comes from a very conservative, religious household and she is struggling with trying to be a perfect child under that roof. This was not my own teen experience, though I did struggle with a perfect child complex (though for very different reasons). I'm not trying to suggest that one's personal experience must mirror a character's in order for one to relate to that character. However, there was something about Coley (and, really, all the characters) that felt both disingenuous and simplistic. Throughout my reading of this book, I had a hard time believing any of the characters and it's hard for me to explain exactly why. It's not that I didn't think there are real teens dealing with the same issues and feeling the same feelings. I think it has more to do with the second word I used to describe them: simplistic. To me, all the characters and, thus, the novel as a whole, lacked the complexity I've come to expect from solidly written YA lit. Everything felt very surface level, even the moments when Coley is struggling to understand her hidden feelings about the plot developments.
My other big issue with this book was the pacing. The blurb gives a clear indication that there is going to be something about sexuality in this book, which, unfortunately, usually only means a character coming out. So, that's what I was expecting. I was probably two-thirds of the way through this book before the issue of sexuality was explored in that way. To be fair to the book, though, there is quite a bit of discussion of heterosexual sexuality, particularly as it relates to one's religious beliefs. Coley is indeed struggling with her sexuality throughout this book, though perhaps not in the way I expected. Additionally, the reason for Coley and Sadie's estrangement is not revealed until extremely late in the book, mostly leading to me being frustrated with the slow reveal of information here. Finally, I felt the ending was too pat and unrealistic. Overall, this book and I just didn't work.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.