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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Heartshire High: A Novel

Wouldn't you know it? Our very own Charlotte Leonetti has written a novel, and by golly, it's wonderful. I don't say this just because she's a guest blogger here and I happen to like her a lot. It's a compelling novel that instantly grabbed my attention.

Celia has just moved to a new town through no choice of her own -- she was moved by her dad, who just left her mom in sunny California to battle her mental illness alone. Celia is already so bummed by this move, and the difficulty making friends in her new town isn't helping. She has a countdown of days until she graduates and can go home to be with her mom. One night, forced by her only friend to go to the hottest party of the year, she comes upon a closely guarded secret of Pilar, whose boyfriend died right before the school year began. This only leads to more questions, leading Celia down a rabbit hole that can only be fixed one way -- by finding out the truth that lies behind the death of Pilar's boyfriend.

Rereading my synopsis of the book, I feel that I may not have done it justice. On the outside it may seem like this story has a lot going on, but in reading it, the story flows together and the twists and turns come naturally. I say that I was pleasantly surprised, only because I didn't really know what to expect going in. I purposely kept myself in the dark so that I could fairly judge the book, and I knew about a third of the way through that I loved it. Charlotte has a voice that is as clear as a bell, and her storytelling skills are on point.

The character arc of Celia is strong and deep; she is immediately likable but in a dark, brooding sort of way. She jumps off the page as a very real, very deep character, and I liked her immediately. One of the advantages of this author being a young female is that she understands how to write for them more so than most. One of my biggest peeves is reading unrealistic portrayals of females, especially young females, and Charlotte hit this one out of the park. Celia is a full-bodied human whom I could relate to, and she was genuinely interesting. Celia was my favorite character in this book, with the right amount of snark and intelligence and smarts. I loved that she was raw and real, and that she didn't let her estrangement from her peers just roll off her back. I got her, and that's the highest compliment I can pay a character.

The events of the book are crazy and twisty and outlandish and it's crazy fun. Charlotte has taken us on a roller coaster ride that is seemingly nuts but flows together seamlessly. While entirely outlandish, that's the fun of this story. I saw the connection to Alice in Wonderland, but Charlotte has made this story her own. It's topsy-turvey yet still grounded in reality, and I wanted to be on Celia's side the whole time. I wanted to hug Pilar and Dutch, and I wish I had known Tim. This was a wonderful reading experience, and I'm so grateful that Charlotte entrusted me with her work. Now, you go off and read it. Enjoy yourself too. 

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