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Ye Olde Teen Angst

In which our heroine Betsy learns that sometimes, the best way to deal with emotions is by churning butter.

Ye Olde Teen Angst

BOOK REPORT for The Pursuit of Happiness by Tara Altebrando

Cover Story: Way Better Than a Shave Gel Commercial
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factors: Williamsburg, Sassy Best Friend
Relationship Status: Gal Pals

Cover Story: Way Better Than a Shave Gel Commercial

Ok, so when this book was originally published in 2006, it looked like this:

Which, you know, is fine and all. If you're a fan of Skintimate ads.

But very recently, The Pursuit of Happiness got repackaged as an e-book with the adorable umbrella cover you see above. HOW CUTE IS THAT? SUPER cute. And, get this: since Tara is from Staten Island, and spent her summers on the Jersey shore, she's donating the November proceeds from the sale of her two newly repackaged ebooks to Hurricane Sandy disaster relief efforts. Because she's cool like that. So, now you can buy some great YA and then feel really good about yourself.

The Deal:

Betsy's mom just died of cancer. And yeah, it totally sucks. Her dad doesn't know how to deal, so nights at home are full of fast food and awkwardness. The only bright spot in Betsy's life is her job at Morrisville, an historic village where she can escape to a different time and daydream about James, her super hot coworker. Betsy knows her life has changed, that she has changed, but she doesn't exactly know what those changes mean. Her old life and her old friends feel drearily distant, so she throws herself into the charms of Morrisville and her new relationships with James and Liza, a straight shooter with bestie potential. But at the end of each day, she has to return to the real world, with a dead mother, grieving father and brother and a life that feels devastatingly unclear.

BFF Charm: Yay!

I can't even fathom the loss that Betsy experiences, but girlfriend is a lot stronger than she thinks. She's sad and angry, but she's also spirited and determined and not afraid to create a new life for herself. Sure, she makes mistakes, but so do normal teenagers, and Betsy's got a lot more on her plate than your typical adolescent. At the same time, she's still a jumble of adolescent hormones, and as she fights to overcome her grief, she's also fighting to be a regular teen who goes to parties and hangs out with her friends and crushes on cute boys. Thankfully, she finds a great friend in Liza, so I didn't have to pull a "Take On Me" and dive into the book in order to give her the support and love and laughter she needed. But I'd still like to head over to her house one night and make a home-cooked meal for her and her little brother. And I don't cook, y'all, so that's saying A LOT.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

James is a lanky, blonde surfer nerd, which is another way to say HAWT. He's insightful and thoughtful and charming, but without ruining a major plot point, let's just say that he is also FRUSTRATING. Things are complicated between him and Betsy, and although there were some nice tingles, I had to dock the swoon some major points because GAH. I just can't believe [spoiler redacted] and then [spoiler redacted] and SERIOUSLY JAMES? I mean, I still love you, but SHEESH.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

Here on FYA, we're already big fans of Tara Altebrando, and it was a pleasure to read one of her early works. Her style has evolved since she wrote this book, but the root of her talent is still on full display. Betsy's emotions are messy and intense and completely and utterly authentic, and Altebrando explores her roller coaster of feelings without making the story a total Debbie Downer. The dialogue is snappy and realistic, and there's enough description to paint a precise and compelling picture of some key moments. The only issue I had was with the pacing, which was a little erratic. Then again, so is Betsy's life.

Bonus Factor: Williamsburg

After reading Past Perfect and now this book, I would like to start a petition that all current YA trends be replaced with historical reenactment villages because BEST SUMMER JOB EVER. Seriously, Betsy gets to spend her days churning butter and making ye old convo with tourists, and it just sounds so delightful! Plus, the general store gets robbed three times a day! You can't find that kind of excitement working at Express in the mall, know what I'm saying?

Bonus Factor: Sassy Best Friend

Liza is EXACTLY what Betsy needs in a friend, because she totally keeps it real. She's funny and weird and sarcastic and, yeah, she's basically a laid back version of Janis Ian. Which means she's AWESOME.

Casting Call:

Ashley Rickards as Betsy

Lucas Till as James

Relationship Status: Gal Pals

This book and I totally get each other, and I value my time in its company, whether we're giggling over boys or crying over a broken heart. This book is serious and honest, but it's also sweet and fun, and I love hearing its stories about Morrisville. In fact, I'm thinking about applying there for a job next summer...

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from the author. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Pursuit of Happiness is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).