From What I Remember review

The perfect antidote for a dreary January day…

from what i remember ukFrom What I Remember, January 2013, Electric Monkey (Egmont)

Book jacket blurb:

At midday, class brainiac Kylie Flores is due to give the most important speech of her life. And yet somehow she’s woken up in Mexico, in a bed she doesn’t recognise, with the hangover from hell and the hottest boy in school – and they’re both wearing wedding bands.

She might be a budding screenwriter, but even Kylie’s vivid imagination can’t come up with the ending to this movie.

Rewind 48 hours…

Review:

The last two books I read had fairly serious central themes, and with the festivities over and the cold and dreary January weather settling in I felt like I needed a bit of light-hearted escapism. So I was pretty pleased when a review copy of From What I Remember plopped onto my doormat. I turned the first page and I was in Mexico.

Ensenada, Mexico, is where our two protagonists, Max and Kylie, wake up in bed together after a night to remember… only Kylie can’t remember very much of it at all. The action rewinds 48 hours, two days before graduation at the elite FreiburgAcademy in La Jolla, San Diego. From there on the story follows Kylie Flores (top of the class, valedictorian, Token Scholarship Student and social low-life) and Max Langston (squash-playing rich kid and the hottest, most popular guy in school) and unravels how these two social polar opposites ended up in Mexico together with just hours to figure out how to get back in time for graduation – and the ensuing fallout.

I won’t spoil the fun by saying much more about what happens on their adventure together – suffice to say that there is drinking, parties, family secrets revealed, romance, sex, car-jacking, theft, high-speed car chases… In fact, there was a little more fast-paced action than I was really expecting! At times it definitely felt like one of Kylie’s favourite blockbuster action movies or teen flicks, quotes from which are dotted about the text. It was fun to read and I really got swept along by the unlikely sequence of events – think The Hangover mixed with What Happens in Vegas and John Tucker Must Die.

The tale unfolds from alternating character viewpoints – mainly Kylie’s and Max’s, but also some of the supporting roles, such as Will, Kylie’s cross-dressing GBF; Jake, her little brother who has Asperger’s syndrome; and Lily, Max’s girlfriend. I thought this worked really well, and it gave a more balanced view of the main characters and meant that the secondary ones were more fleshed out too. And all of the characters, though on first glance social stereotypes, had more depth to them once you got to know them – they all have their contradictions, and their own family issues, secrets and insecurities bubbling under the surface.

I couldn’t help but like Kylie and Max – two total opposites in superficial terms, but similar in the sense that they continually surprise themselves and each other with their reactions to the situations they find themselves in. There is real chemistry between them. You see the word ‘insta-love’ bandied about a lot in YA fiction reviews – our eyes met across a crowded canteen and we were irrevocably mutually besotted, blah blah blah. Well, in this case you have two characters getting a crash course in each other in 48 hours, but it doesn’t seem ‘instant’. It’s as if weeks and months are compressed into a short space of time.

I can’t say I was surprised by the ending, but I wasn’t expecting all the twists that came along the way. And yes there are cheesy one-liners, over-the-top action and, in the tradition of all good high school comedies, the inevitable feel-good graduation speech climax scene. But it brought a smile to my face and reminded me that you shouldn’t take anything or anyone at face value – including yourself.

Take this book with a pinch of salt, a shot of tequila and enjoy.

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