adorkable

Probably not a dense space opera, eh?

“‘We need to talk,’ Michael Lee told me firmly when I stepped out of the makeshift changing room at the St Jude’s jumble sale, which was actually four curtained rails arranged in a square, to have a good preen in front of a clouded mirror.”

If it’s not already clear, I will read practically everything and anything. Drama and dystopia, fact and fiction, horror and history, crime and classics, thriller, mystery, short stories, doorstoppers, biographies and books of lists and everything in between. This does occasionally, therefore, include chick lit and young adult literature, the former of which I often enjoy, the latter of which I rarely do.

So, with the assurance to myself that I read everything in order to give as many people as possible a suggestion of something to read, I set myself off reading Adorkable. It was actually a present from a good friend, and I’ll come totally clean right now – I thought I’d have to lie about liking this book because while reading it I had many strong emotions, and not all of them positive. However, on the whole, I don’t need to lie. I did enjoy the book. I’m not saying I don’t have complaints, but I came out of it with a fairly positive opinion.

It seems like it’s going to be a very modern boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wins-girl novel going on the blurb. A quirky, individual blog-obsessed teenage girl keeps kissing a hotter-than-hot cool teenage boy and I kind of figured that was all I was going to get. No.

Jeane Smith is a self-proclaimed dork, Twitter-obsessive, blogger and she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of her. Thanks to convoluted circumstances, she lives alone at seventeen years old (my thoughts on this sort of aspect of the book are below) and dresses however she wants, is respected across the globe via her Adorkable brand and lifestyle. Michael Lee is about as mainstream as it is possible to get, doesn’t think much of Jeane and her way of life and generally does what he can to avoid her. However, their arguments become more and more frequent and soon they find that whenever they bump into each other, they end up kissing, although they’re both convinced that the other one is initiating it and that it’s all a mistake that keeps happening again and again.

What occurs is a curious love story in which both parties have very strong antagonistic feelings towards one another. This is not a story of true love overcoming all odds – this is one in which the characters have real emotions and the politics and problems of dating at the other end of your social spectrum become all too clear. It’s actually rather good. Jeane is certainly suffering with a personality disorder of some kind (her backstory leaves you in no doubt as to the cause of this) and Michael is rather vain and too busy being concerned with how his hair looks and what his friends are doing to really have any deep thoughts. They’re actually quite realistic people – you know these sorts of people.

What I can’t buy with it is that Jeane is supposed to be some kind of social media mogul. She has half a million followers on Twitter, updates her blog daily, runs a company called Adorkable which sells various “cool and offbeat” products, was noted by the Guardian as an influential teenager, lives by herself, and is frequently invited to speak at conferences around the world getting paid tens of thousands of pounds a time to do so. She’s friends with rock stars, attends New York soirees and gets drunk despite being very much underage and seems to live entirely off Haribo and coffee.

I would’ve had a lot more time for Jeane if the book wasn’t so set on telling us how bloody wonderful she is all the time. There obviously are these success stories on the Internet, but Jeane seems like an impossibly extreme example. There seems to be a good deal of a Mary Sue about her. However, there is far more too her than that. She might not be a particularly likeable character, but she’s definitely three-dimensional, even if it takes a long time for us to see that third dimension. The love story appears halted almost instantly. On the first page, she describes how the whole school thinks Michael Lee is the hottest guy in the world, and I immediately thought, “Ah, she’s just going to start fawning over him now” but instead she is just rude to him and refuses to accept him as someone worthy of her time. Clearly, that changes, but it does add an extra layer to the whole thing.

The strangest thing about the book, maybe, is that Jeane never once mentions Tumblr, and she is the sort of girl who would be over that website like a rash. Much is discussed via the medium of Facebook and Twitter, both of which are valid social networking platforms, but for what Jeane seems to be trying to achieve, Tumblr would make far more sense. Of course, she may well use it but given that every other website from Etsy to Gawker is mentioned, it seems a curious omission.

Once you get over the excessive use of “obvs”, “blates”, “totes” and “whatevs”, there is actually quite a sweet story in here. I flipped and flopped so much over it, sometimes mid-chapter, because something would happen that would cause me to scoff in its ridiculousness, but then it would become heartfelt and real again afterwards. It’s an interesting read, with some beautiful observations about friends and family, and the Tumblr generation would, I feel, certainly enjoy it, but it’s by no means perfect and there are many things I would’ve done differently. The ending is nice, but weaves its way there in such a curious pattern that I thought I was going to detest its finishing line. I didn’t, not at all.

It’s not great literature, but it’s better than some stuff I’ve read for young adults. It talks about sex in that matter-of-fact way that the kids seem to these days (Christ, I sound old) but maybe Manning is trying to hard to be cool. In many respects, then, she should take a leaf out of Jeane’s book and embrace her inner dork.

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