Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding


Title: The Reece Malcolm List 

Author: Amy Spalding 

Rating: 4.5 Stars

As a teen, it feels as if I read less of teen fiction and more of adult. Statistically speaking, this isn’t true. Nearly all the novels I pick up are YA, but I tend to pick the more serious type; more brooding, more depressing, and infinitely more likely to make me burst into tears rather than laugh out loud. Why? I have no idea. I guess you could say I’m a snob. I read reviews where people describe a novel as being “fun” and automatically discard it from the list of novels I hope to read within the next few decades. I don’t even bother to give them a try. With The Reece Malcolm List, I didn’t even need to read the synopsis or a review to discard it: one look at that pink cover and I was scrambling for the dark, poignant covers of heartfelt contemporary.

Needless to say, I hope you all don’t make the same assumption as I did. I wound up buying The Reece Malcolm List on a whim to read during a four-hour bus ride to Washington D.C. and I simply could not put it down. From the very first pages, the clear-cut, no-nonsense, and deeply vulnerable voice of Devan Malcolm, the protagonist of our tale who loses her father and is sent to live with the mother she’s never even met before, resonated within me. Granted, my instant connection to this novel stems mostly from myself and the very fact that the quirks that make Devan who she is are very similar to the quirks that make me who I am, but, regardless, I believe that every reader can find something to connect with, love, appreciate, and ultimately enjoy about The Reece Malcolm List.

If I had taken a few seconds out of my too-busy-procrastinating life and actually read the synopsis of The Reece Malcolm List, I would have recognized it for a novel I would love. Instantly. I find that there is something very heart-warming and endearing about family novels, especially ones that focus realistically on mother-daughter relationships. When Devan’s father dies unexpectedly, she is shipped off to live with her mother, the famous author Reece Malcolm, in California, mostly because her step-mother doesn’t want her anymore. As Devan has never even spoken to her mother before, she is apprehensive about this new move. Is she intruding on her mother’s life? Why did her mother never try to contact her for sixteen years? And just what will happen if Reece Malcolm decides she doesn’t want Devan after all?

What makes The Reece Malcolm List such a stunning debut is, in my opinion, its narration. From the moment you meet her, Devan is a character you cannot help but love and feel for. We are immediately introduced to “The Reece Malcolm List”, an ongoing list that Devan adds to whenever she finds out something new about her mother. With this simple idea, the entire novel is cast in a light of aching bittersweetness, mostly because the small tid-bits of knowledge that we take for granted about our mothers or other family members are the very same facts that Devan craves to know, but is too shy to ask for fear of highlighting the elephant in the room that only keeps growing. Yet, as the story wears on, we can recognize the thin and fragile bond developing between Reece and Devan. It is easy to witness the love between these two, despite their silent way of showing their affection.

Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, but flawed, adult relationship prevalent in this novel. Brad, the just-moved-in boyfriend of Reece, is an absolute sweetheart, loving Reece despite her moodiness and rather strange quirks. I found myself immersed in their love story for the problems they faced, right alongside the happiness. In fact, it is the relationship between all three of them – Devan, Brad, and Reece – that is so perfect simply because it is flawed, filled with sarcastic arguments, flaring tempers, and lame apologies. Yet, it is that makes it all so real, which is perhaps why I fell so hard for this debut.

Although Devan’s relationship with her mother and her boyfriend is easily the most important aspect of this novel, the friendships she forges in her new school, one exclusively for singers and actors, is another excellent element to this tale. As a student who isn’t used to much attention, Devan is surprised to make friends in her new school. Although she does instantly meet some nice people, the growing closer and growing apart of the friendships between this group of both guys and gals is an experience in-and-of itself. Not only are they all involved in music, loving to sing or dance or act, but they face very real issues. Furthermore, Devan captivated me with her enthusiasm for musicals, despite the fact that my knowledge of them is extremely limited. I love nothing more than a novel that can make you passionate about a topic you originally were not before and on this front, The Reece Malcolm List delivers spectacularly.

Nevertheless, I do have to admit that the romance surprised me. It was surprisingly similar to Anna and the French Kiss, only with significantly less drama. The Reece Malcolm List sets up a similar scheme of two best friends, one who has a girlfriend while the other looks on in unrequited like, but it is portrayed slightly differently. Instead of approaching this as a romance novel, Spalding looks at it as an experience in growing up and finding your place in the world, which I loved. Integrated between this romance is an immense amount of growth, although, don’t worry, there’s more than enough making out as well.

If there are any flaws with this novel, it is simply that it ended too soon. Unlike most novels which share this flaw, I actually loved the ending of The Reece Malcolm List. Yet, I thought it was ever-so-slightly convenient, idealistic and, overall, I found that I wanted a little more insight, both into the future of Devan’s relationship with her mother and the issues that Devan’s crush, Sai, had. With him, it felt as if we only peeled back a thin layer of the depth of the issues that were present in his life. I most definitely wanted something more towards the end to leave me feeling more than completely satisfied, opposed to just pleasantly happy by the end of this. You can clearly tell, though, that I have little to complain about since this debut was simply brilliant. It was endearingly realistic, all while retaining a spunky, musical quality about it which makes me want to label it as “fun” even though it’s also deep, inspirational, and utterly sweet. Amy Spalding, I hope you’re one of those authors who can whip out a book or two a year because I am already demanding more!(;

21 comments:

  1. Ohhh lovely review Keertana! I love books that have relationship and character growth between all parties involved. I'm definitely curious about Reese Malcolm now. It sounds like a book that I might like. Hopefully it'll be available in the library sometime soon :).

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  2. This book hasn't caught my attention previously on Netgalley, but now I'm a little disappointed that I didn't request it! I thought it was just one of those meaningless contemporary books as well, so I didn't think of reading it (I'm like you!). But after reading your review, I'm so intrigued! This Devan character seems so lovely and real, it's great that you connected with her so easily. The relationship between her and her mother looks strong and ever-growing. And since you've mentioned the similar romance to Anna, I'm so in! This is a fantastic review as always, Keertana. I'm picking this book up soon because of you! <3

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  3. I didn't expect a lot going into The Reece Malcolm List either Keertana, but it's depth of characters certainly surprised me. Also I enjoyed how it wasn't predictable in the least, Devan's mum's behaviour could change in an instant, that you didn't know what you'd be getting! Lovely review Keertana! :)

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  4. I had little to no interest in this book when I first came across it, but all these positive reviews have me more than convinced now. I love the sound of Devan! And, of course, I like the Anna and the French Kiss comparison. ;) I'll definitely have to give this one a shot in a few weeks. Brilliant review, Keertana!

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  5. I’m exactly the same way, Keertana! I’m much more drawn to dark contemporary novels, and I tend to automatically discount ones with girly covers, even if I’ve been assured that the contents are different. In all honesty, that feeling has been the big reason I’ve stayed so far away from The Reece Malcolm List, but I guess I should rethink myself here! I also love novels about family and family relationships—they’re probably my favorite.

    Uh, yep. Your review has just convinced me that I need to get this book straight away! So thank you for that. :D

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  6. I've heard really good things about this book! I'm glad that the adult relationship is an important role & prominent, that doesn't happen very often. I'm excited to read this book. :)

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  7. I don't think there's anything wrong with being selective about the types of books you choose to read - call it snobbery or whatever else. All of us have limited reading time, so we have to choose carefully what to read. With that being said, however, I am sure that I miss many light-hearted books that I would love simply because I, like you, prefer more serious reads. While I'm still not sure that The Reece Malcolm List is for me despite this lovely and glowing review, I am glad that you took a chance with this and ended up really loving it, Keertana! That's always a great feeling to have. :)

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  8. I've never heard of this book before but the cover looks cute! And I love contemporary books so thank you so much for introducing me to this one ;)

    Awesome review, Keertana ♥ So glad you enjoyed it!

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  9. Less drama in a romance sounds VERY good to me! I have this one on my WL but it's your review that has me dying to get my hands on it. It sounds amazing! I'm so glad you gave it a try!

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  10. I've had this one ever since it came out, but I have to admit I'm a bit of a snob myself. The cover made me think that this would be a fluffy story without any real substance, when instead it portrays complicated, layered relationships that are a true delight to read.
    I'll have to move it up on my tbr, you've left me no choice.
    Gorgeous review as always.

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  11. Fantastic review, Keertana. Like Sam I wasn't planning on reading this book at all. It didn't interest me when I first saw it but then so many positive reviews started coming up. I'm glad to hear that this story has an impressive depth and the characters are someone you can easily connect to. Thanks for sharing this lovely review. Definitely going to read this soon. :)

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  12. I've done that before Keertana - taken one look at a cover and decided it wouldn't be of interest to me only to pick it up later and be thoroughly impressed. I love when a book proves to me just how wrong I was to discard it initially:) I really had no interest in this book, but you've definitely got me reconsidering!!!

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  13. I just added this to my TBR pile. We are so alike Keertana. I have disregarded so many YA books just because they were labeled as fun, cute, insert other positive, sweet word here. Just like you, I am attracted to books that promise despair and conflict, issue books essentially. Yet your review has convinced me I would love this book, and I am now more anxious than ever to read it! :)

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  14. This is such a heartfelt review! I actually love 'fun' books as well as they are also quality. So rarely do I find books that make me laugh out loud. Anyway, I will be reading this one for sure now. It sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing!

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  15. I've heard nothing but positive, gushing praise for this book. As soon as I can get my hands on a copy of it, I'll definitely give it a go. Great, thorough review, Keertana!

    I passed it over because of the campy cover, but sometimes I make mistakes when I do that. This is clearly one of those times. :)

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  16. I LOVED this book! And now I am even more excited to get to L.A!

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  17. Like you, I was initially inclined to write this one off, but the more reactions I see, and this review in particular have me convinced it's one of the few contemporaries I really must read this year. I was fortunate enough to attend a panel featuring Amy Spalding, and the way she talked about the mother-daughter relationship in this one really made me want to pick it up. I also love books where the romance isn't the thing, it's just an organic part of the bigger plot. We'll see though, I'm one of those who really didn't like the romance in Anna and the French Kiss, so I'm hoping it's different enough to not bother me.

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  18. I am so BUMMED that I missed this one on NG. I love all types of contemporary YA, intense and issue driven as well as lighter and funny. So I am so happy you give this one a thumbs up, Keertana! And omg, did you compare the romance to Anna and the French Kiss?? Sign me up!

    Incidentally, Spalding's next book loos to be awesome too!Here's the GR link:
    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17343437-ink-is-thicker-than-water

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  19. Agree on basically all counts. I always try to just toss aside anything with a pink cover or anything described as "cute," "fun," or "light." But just like you, I started reading this on a whim because everyone was talking about it and it just flew by. You made a few great points here--the romance *was* less drama-filled than some other YA books and I appreciated that. I also had a lot of fun with the drama (theatre!) parts of the book whereas I usually hate when characters are working on a play. It is just overdone in the YA genre, I think. (ESPECIALLY A Midsummer Night's Dream) I guess it doesn't hurt that Amy Spalding must like a few of the same musicals as me:)

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  20. Tonya loved this one too, just like everyone else I know--but weirdly enough, I felt relatively indifferent to the whole thing, which was so disappointing! I liked Devan well enough and the story well enough, but I just didn't find it as charming or funny or heartfelt as everyone else did. Was I just cranky when I read it? :P Oh, well.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it, though. I do like that we're seeing more lighthearted contemporary YAs, though--they make a nice change from all the angsty ones that take themselves too seriously.

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