Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happenstance, by Jamie McGuire

Five Stars to Happenstance, by Jamie McGuire, the first in a new series of self-published YA novellas from the beloved author of Beautiful Disaster.  It's a characterful portrait of a small town girl with big dreams, and the complicated circumstances that unfold as her senior year comes to an end.








Synopsis

Erin Easter is one of three Erins in the small senior class of rural Blackwell High School who not only share a first name, but also their birthday. Raised by a neglectful single mom, Erin keeps to herself and admires Weston Gates from afar. The other Erins, Erin A. and Erin M. are the darlings of the community: daughters of the two wealthiest families in town, best friends, cheerleaders, and everything Erin Easter isn't--and they never let her forget it. Erin A. has even claimed Weston since the 8th grade.

Weston is a well-liked star athlete, and the son of two prominent attorneys. He struggles daily with the pressures of living up to his family name and secretly empathizes with Erin Easter's feeling that she belongs somewhere else; in a different life. Not until he begins sneaking nights out with Erin does he gain the courage to buck expectations and acknowledge his feelings ... both for his future, and for her.

But when a shocking tragedy rocks the tiny town, Erin's life is turned upside down in the best way possible. But when the truth is revealed and everything Erin thinks she wanted falls into her lap, life only becomes more complicated.

Fred's Notes

The art of miniature painting reached its apogee or zenith in the late 16th century, with
the artistry of Nicholas Hilliard, who was renowned not only for his technical skill, but also for the way his work was sensitive to the character of the persons he portrayed.  This little portrait he did of Queen Elizabeth I gives us a glimpse of her as a real person I think, not the shellacked and overcoiffed official image we usually see.  And what a crazy time that was in England right? John Donne, Shakespeare, William Byrd, John Dowland - an astonishing flowering of works that still speak to our contemporary ears.

I'm not going to get super carried away and say we're in a literary renaissance of Elizabethan proportions,  but the outpouring of awesome that has occurred since Jamie first published Beautiful Disaster, Colleen Hoover published Slammed, Abbi Glines published Breathe, E.L. James published the Fifty Shades trilogy, Tammara Webber published the Between the Lines series, Steph Campbell published  Grounding Quinn, Tarryn Fisher published The Opportunist ... okay, I'm going to stop, and leave those as examplars, not an exhaustive enumeration, because although there are so many that I don't want to leave out,  this is supposed to be a review of Happenstance, right?  So my point is that there has been an outpouring, an explosion, even, of talent that while maybe not straight outa Cheapside, is reminiscent at least of another British invasion, when four lads from Liverpool ignited a storm of talent that blew up the charts, the music business and the ears of young listeners in much the way Jamie and her coterie of charming codebreakers  (they broke the publishing code, is what I'm driving at) burst onto the scene just a few short years ago (wow, 2011, right? So much has happened and changed!).

Happenstance is a beautiful miniature in the mold of those sixteenth century portraits (just in case you wondered how I was planning on tying that in, lol).  It's technically proficient, clever, artful and, conveys a vivid sense of its characters and their circumstances.  And while small in scale, it delivers a big emotional punch.  Proficient and clever, you ask?  Well, consider the names of the characters for example. Erin Easter, our protagonist, is ripe for the rebirth and renewal of the season whose name she shares (treading close to spoiler territory, sorry!)  And Weston Gates?  Maybe he's the entryway to something beyond the circumscribed circumstances of Erin's current choices. And Erin works at Dairy Queen, where she's a bit of a scullery maid, replete with a cruel mother, as well.  So there are archetypal elements of fairy tale, legend and myth, mingled in with the down home realism that Jamie is at great pains to create. I've worked in a Dairy Queen (okay, technically it was a Tastee Freeze, fine) and Jamie nails the sights, sounds, smells and spatters of that experience.   She also creates a vivid and touching portrait of a sensitive girl in tough circumstances, one whose knight without armor relies on his inhaler in socially stressful situations, and a provincial society that is kind of Gene Pitney-esque in its "without pity" aspects. Her imagery is vivid, but relatable, in a way that reminded me of my old high school production of Our Town, finding poetry in the pedestrian details of small town life. 

Okay, suffice it to say, I loved Happenstance, and I think you will too, if you love a tender and emotional contemporary YA.  It's fun to watch a master at work, and to enjoy the atmosphere and characters she creates as she wields that miniature brush so lovingly and effectively.  

Wrap Up and Amazon Link

It's probably pretty obvious that I'm a big Jamie fan.  I consider her a friend, mentor and supporter of my little blog and my presence in the book community.  But that friendship grows from my respect for Jamie's talent, perseverance and humanity.  So trust me when I tell you, this is a heck of a sweet read for contemp YA lovers.  It's short (remember my whole miniature shtick?), but a lovely quick read that will remind you why you fell in love with indie, and Jamie McGuire, in the first place.

Find it at Amazon, here!

53 comments:

  1. Great review!! Excited to read this one. Somehow I had missed the fact that it was YA. I'm even more excited now!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Heather. It's perfect pitch contemp YA, you'll love it!

      Delete
  2. I did love Happenstance, very much. If I hadn't already read it (I pre-ordered because I am in love with all things McGuire!), your review would have had me sold instantly! I look forward to perusing your blog for more literary insight!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jamie! Wow, I appreciate your nice words!

      Delete
  3. I am so lovin' the Team Fred shirts. Loaded Happenstance onto my kindle, this weekends read :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Renee, love you! Did you see my Amanda post?

      Delete
  4. Awesome review Fred! Awesome book too! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just One - clicked (even though I'm not supposed to). Great review :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Awesome Review Fred!!!! I need to find time to read this one soon :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Chris! It's a quick read and a sweet one!

      Delete
  7. I loved this book!!! Awesome review Fred!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Elise! So great to see you here!

      Delete
  8. I still haven't read any Jamie McGuire yet but I need to soon! Adding to my TBR now :) Thanks Fred!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a great way to start, Krystle, but it is YA, not quite as much tabasco as provided by the Maddox brothers!

      Delete
  9. Great review, Fred!!! Just another reason, our mutual love of Jamie McGuire, to cement our #bookfriendsbestfriends :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jessica! So great to see you here! (Love that hashtag!)

      Delete
  10. Great review Fred...and I desperately want a Team Fred shirt...you know I'd totally rock that sh*t. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to see you in it, Vanessa! Fingers crossed!

      Delete
  11. Can't wait to read this book! Loves Fredrigo!!! Ps I wnts the precious (aka) the shirt!!! Lol

    ReplyDelete
  12. Awesome review. Looking forward to reading this book sometime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Kayla! I just know you'll love it!

      Delete
  13. Awesome review! Loved the book too!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Awesome review! Loved the book too!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Whitney, glad you loved it too!

      Delete
  15. It's no secret I heart Jamie McGuire. :) Hooray for five star reviews! <3 #HappyDanceForHappenstance

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, Danielle, that's an understatement, happy dancing with you!

      Delete
  16. Fred, you are my fail proof, go to book guru. AND, Jamie McGuire is a fellow Okie...so this is a win-win situation for me! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Darla, thanks so much, you're gonna love it, I know!

      Delete
  17. This is on my TBR list, can't wait to read it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting Audrianna! What a lovely name you have!

      Delete
  18. Great review! Love Jamie McGuire and can't wait to read Happenstance!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Perfect review!! I love all things Jamie McGuire, and this was no exception.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenn! So awesome to see you here, thanks!

      Delete
  20. The way you crafted miniature Renaissance painting in with a YA book review is freaking awesome Fred! hahahaha I'm woefully behind on my Jamie McGuire reading and your review convinced me to bump Happenstance up the TRB list. Excellent job, Fred. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dee, appreciate the encouragement, lol. This is a good one get back into it with!

      Delete
  21. Great review Fred! I need to move this up my TBR pile… I do love her writing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Karen, you won't be disappointed, I'm sure!

      Delete
  22. I heart Team Fred!!!!! I can't believe I didn't know you had a team! I will definitely give this book a look too!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I think I love you, lol! Great review!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Cassie! Way to inspire a guy!

      Delete
  24. Replies
    1. Thank you, Debra! That means a lot, coming from someone whose writing I admire so much!

      Delete