Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much. L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love. But then the Reece Malcolm list gets a surprising new entry. Now that Devan is so close to having it all, can she handle the possibility of losing everything? (Synopsis from Goodreads)
Recently, when I was supposed to be working, I was in fact half-listening to a radio interview I had on in the background. A film director was talking about his latest project (I can't remember who it was or the film - I did say I was half-listening), but a point he made really caught my attention - he said that in real life our relationships with our friends are never black and white and that people we like often do annoying or bad things but it doesn't stop us being friends with them because everyone is slightly muddled, but that you can't really convey this on film, because things tend to need to have a stronger message. Or something like that. I don't think I necessarily agree with his point, but this kind of describes the thing I loved most about The Reece Malcolm List - that fact that people aren't perfect and their characters can sometimes be a bit murky and annoying but that's what friendship, and relationships are all about. It's not the main plot of the book, but it's the one that sticks in my mind the most.
I do apologise. That was a very long-winded way of starting a review.
Anyway, this was one of those books that I kept reading until about two in the morning. Which I wasn't expecting in the slightest when I first started it. On the face of it, this has very similar elements to a lot of contemporary YA - death of a parent, trying to fit in with new surroundings, fancying the pants off seemingly unattainable bloke, you know the drill. I was expecting mild diversion rather than a full-on kindle-clutching fest.
But the writing really elevated this - Devan's voice is spot on. I'm always a bit sceptical when I know the main character is a shy and awkward type because so often this veers into annoying and self-pitying territory and I end up shouting 'GROW A PAIR!' at the book. Even though I use to be a shy and awkward teen myself. But I loved Devan - just the right balance of wariness and hidden determination. I was a bit worried about how a self-styled 'fashionista' and belter of show tunes could also be a bit of a mouse, but I guess it's testament to the quality of the writing that I ended up being utterly convinced by her. And the eponymous Reece Malcolm - another triumph of a very guarded woman trying to do her best in an unusual situation.
There were a few irritations, one being the love interest. He was alright, I suppose. And I'm always a fan of the expectation of the kissing, and there was a lot of that here. But he was just a bit too needy and whiny for my liking. And this brings me onto another conundrum - I'm never sure quite how much I like an author to describe a character's appearance, because I ended up getting a bit confused with this one - he's described by someone as like Disney's Aladdin - all good, but in my imagination, I had to tone down the hair somewhat. But then someone else says he has big hair. And now I'm all confused again. And then he's unexpectedly toned, but I had him pegged as lean because a T-shirt 'hangs on him like the shirt had fulfilled its sole mission in life.' In the end, I couldn't get the image of a tall but overly-muscle bound bouffanted boy out of my head. CONFUSION. Some things are best left to imagination.
But like I said before, for me, this was all about the realistic depiction of friendship and how much it means to teenagers. Muddled relationships are the way forward!