It stated out like a grand romantic gesture. Hank just wanted to ask Amanda to the prom, with sprinklers in her front yard. But instead he burnt down her tree. This debacle leads him to a friendship with a new girl, Peyton who likes fire and has a lousy home life. Hank’s home life is not a picnic either. His mother and brother were killed in a car accident which leaves him with his heartbroken father. His other friend may or may not be in a mafia family. Peyton has a dangerous habit. She is a bit of a fire bug, lighting leaves and barbie dolls ablaze. In the meantime, Amanda starts a website to find the person who performed this grand romantic gesture. Hank fills out the questionnaire but his feelings for Peyton grow and he is not sure what to think or who he is supposed to be with. This is a teen romance about two imperfect people who find a perfect connection. It has the same realistic and hopeful love that readers found in Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. This is Robin Ruel’s first novel for teens and I hope that she writes more. The story pulls you along and I enjoyed the characters, especially Hank’s father’s stripper girlfriend, Monica.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss this passage, “It’s like they transform from being beautiful to ugly and distorted. There’s a different kind of beauty in that, I think. Everything beautiful can be ugly, and everything ugly can be beautiful. It’s all perspective. But it’s like you’re the artist with the brush, and everything else is your canvas. “
Discuss when Hank says this about Peyton, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It’s not like Peyton’s an enemy, but she’s not exactly a friend.”
Discuss Hank’s relationship with Monica and his dad.
Discuss this passage, “I feel my insides twist. It’s the truth, but saying it so casually feels like I am throwing Peyton under the bus. I try to ignore my conscience and focus on Amanda.”
Do you find that life lives up to your expectations?
Discuss this passage, “Sometimes, to help make sense of things, we tell ourselves stories and we convince ourselves that they’re true, but that doesn’t mean they really are.”
Discuss how “everyone needs somebody who gets their kind of crazy, right? That doesn’t come along every day.” and “Crazy is a relative term.”
Discuss when Monica says, “This is real life, Hank, not some movie. Every problem doesn’t necessarily have a solution.”
Talk about how Amanda and Peyton are different. Which one do you relate to?
Discuss this passage, “Family isn’t about sharing the same blood in your veins; it’s about the people who come into your life and see how completely messed up and nutter you are and then stick around anyway.”