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!(;