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Tangled by Carolyn Mackler

It's been a couple of years since I picked up a Carolyn Mackler novel. I started with the wonderful Vegan Virgin Valentine and enjoyed it so much I followed it up with her Printz Honor-winning The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, which I also thought was an entertaining and thought-provoking read. And while Mara from Vegan Virgin Valentine is my favorite of her protagonists, I particularly enjoyed Virginia's journey to self-possession in The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, with her "Fat Girl Code of Conduct" and her refusal to starve herself to change who she is. When I heard about Tangled, I was interested in the story of four very different teenagers whose lives become entwined and how they are changed as a result. So when I encountered the opportunity to review the book here I jumped at the chance to return once more to an author I'd enjoyed so much in the past.

Jena is on the vacation from hell. Which is ironic as she's come to an island getaway literally called Paradise. But it's not the place that's the problem. It's the people. Her normally terminally average mother is suddenly going to daily spa appointments with her rich best friend and drinking exotic drinks out of pineapples. Meanwhile, Jena is forced to "hang out" with her mom's best friend's daughter Skye and try (and fail) not to compare herself to her to a fatal degree. Skye is Jena's opposite in every way. Where Jena is short and curvy, Skye is tall and lithe. Where Jena is talkative and nerdy, Skye is remote and a budding actress. The two have less than nothing to talk about and so Jena finds herself wandering around Paradise alone wishing she were at home. Then she meets Dakota. Charming and handsome and seemingly interested in shy Jena from Topeka, Dakota is everything she longs for and is sure she can never have. Their time spent together is akin to a dream come true for Jena, though she's never quite sure if he's for real or not and how far she'll have to go to keep him. Especially with Skye swanning around looking desolate and lonely and in need of a willing body to sweep her off her feet. And then there's Owen. Owen who runs a blog called Loser with a Laptop and who prefers to interact with people online rather than in person. That way he can be snarky and cool and never have to be embarrassed by his scrawny, nonathletic build and tendency to pull out his breathalyser when things get tense. These four teens are each more precariously balanced than they realize and whether or not they will recover from the events of the summer is the million dollar question.

I'm happy to say Carolyn Mackler does not disappoint with her fifth novel. I went in not sure I was really in the mood for an alternating viewpoint story about four teens who meet on an island in the middle of the Caribbean and drama ensues. But I should have remembered how strong and true to life Carolyn Mackler's characterizations are. Each of the four stories covers the space of one month and is told from one of the youth's perspectives, going from Jena to Dakota to Skye to Owen. It was a little jarring moving from Jena to Dakota, given the way I felt about him at the end of Jena's section. But the way the reader is just dropped smack dab into the unhappy mess that is his life effectively erases any disgruntlement at the switch within a few pages. And by the end of Dakota's section I just wanted it to go on, but I was all right making the move to Skye having had the surprising experience of getting to know Dakota. But Owen's--the final story--may be my favorite. His is painful in its way (as are the others) but it also skillfully pulls them all together and hints at what the future might hold for each without detouring from the very endearing, socially challenged blogger. I read this book in a single gulp the night before last and I closed it, smiled, and went to bed happy. But I've found myself thinking about it ever since and feeling rather proud of each of the protagonists for taking control of their lives and wondering how they're doing and hoping they're happy and healthy and well.


Linkage
The Book Cellar Review
The Book Vixen Review
Lavender Lines Review
Miss Shortskirt Review
Once Upon a Book Blog Review
Steph Su Reads Review

Comments

  1. I love Carolyn Mackler's voice so I shall be scrounging for this one. Angie, you make me want to buy everything. Darn you...with love.

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  2. Anonymous2:36 PM

    Thanks for the review, Angie. I had this on my "want" list but decided to give it a pass when I learned it changed POV 4 times. She's going to be at BEA, so I'll make sure to get on her line and pick up a copy.

    By the way, I'm reading Mistwood. I bought it even though Leah Cypess will be at BEA, too.

    KarenS

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  3. Mara from Vegan Virgin Valentine is also my favourite character. This new book sounds interesting...so little time & so much to read

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  4. Adele, she's great. Just great. I'm so glad I picked this new one up as it reminded me why I like her writing so much.

    Karen, I'll join you in both of those lines. :) And I'm so glad you're reading MISTWOOD. Let me know how it goes.

    Emily, awesome! I loved Mara. She was just so determined.

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  5. Anonymous7:20 AM

    I'm sure we'll end up on most of the same lines.

    Have you looked at the BEA schedule? Richelle Mead will be there with Spirit Bound. I thought of you when I I saw her name. I know it isn't your favorite series so I thought it would be great if you could get a copy for free. I've already pre-ordered my copy so I think I'm going to pass on that line - it will be long!

    Enjoying Mistwood, so far.

    KarenS

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  6. Yay, I'm glad you liked Tangled as well! I was really wary of recommending this to readers new to Carolyn's works, but I knew that CM's fans would enjoy this one as well.

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  7. Karen, no doubt. And that's a good idea. I need to find out what happens with Adrian after all...

    Steph, I saw your review and very happy you felt the same way. I know what you mean, too. I think I usually recommend starting with VVV, but that's my favorite. Though this one is really so good.

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  8. Reading Owen now!

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  9. Pam, awesome! Let me know which one's your favorite when you finish.

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