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Turn the Crank

Hope can create a machine that can pop a balloon in 89 easy steps. But she can't think of a way to make Brady think of her as anything but Just Another Girl.

Turn the Crank

BOOK REPORT for Just Another Girl by Elizabeth Eulberg

Cover Story: What a Rube
Drinking Buddy: Nope
Testosterone Estrogen Level: Meh
Talky Talk: This Love Triangle Is Not Acute One
Bonus Factor: Rube Goldberg
Bromance Status: Take Separately

Cover Story: What a Rube

This is one of those covers that extends around to the back and onto the interior flaps. Obviously someone put a lot of work into this Rube Goldberg device (though it's not obvious what you're looking at until you've read the first chapter). I appreciate the creativeness of this design.

The Deal:

Hope has been passionately in love with her best friend Brady for years. He's the perfect nerd boyfriend: awkward and smart and funny and cute and cool in his own way. They'd be so perfect together. And things almost clicked. Until she stepped in. Perfect, skinny, flawless Parker who stole Brady right out from under Hope's nose. A girl who doesn't have Hope's nerdy leanings or chubby belly. All she has is the boy of Hope's dreams, and Hope can only sit there and grit her teeth, waiting for Brady to come to his senses.

Meanwhile, Parker's life is spinning horribly out of control, with Brady as one of the few stable points in his life. And there's nothing wrong with him having that smart girl Hope as his best friend. Parker just wishes she were a little less obvious in her attempts to steal Brady away. Because one of these days, she just might succeed.

Hope schemes while Parker tries to stay alive. And Brady obliviously enjoys both his girlfriend and best friend. How lucky can a guy be to have two such great ladies in his life?

Two girls, one cup...and twelve rubber bands, eight feet of PVC pipe, a half dozen Lego figurines and some dominoes. So what will the result be?

Drinking Buddy: Nope

Sorry, Hope. We've all fallen hard for people that are dating someone else. We know in our hearts that they'd be happier with us. But when they're taken, you step aside and and be the bigger person. Silently seething at your rival only will drive off your love interest. And obsessing over someone who's already taken can prevent you from getting on with your life.

Meanwhile, Parker needs to grow a backbone and politely tell Hope that while Brady treasurers her friendship, she needs to tone things down just a bit. Three's a crowd, you know.

This is not to say the girls are heartless or uncaring of each other's feelings. On Valentine's Day, when Hope accepts Brady's invitation (against her better judgement) to eat at the pizza place where Parker works, Hope is horrified to realize Parker had planned a special Valentine's dinner for her boyfriend, and realizes how much she's overstepped herself.

Parker, similarly, accepts Hope's mother's request that she tutor Hope. Knowing full well that this is the last thing either of them want, Parker still goes out of her way to make sure Hope passes her math test.

Heck, these two could be friends if they didn't hate each other so much.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: Meh

Not a lot of midirected smolder going on here. Parker, a junior, admits early in the book that she's expecting a breakup when Brady, a senior, graduates. Hope seems more in love with the idea of Brady, rather than the boy himself. And Brady is utterly clueless, thinking a guy can be best friends with another woman and not upset his girlfriend. There's also a lot of sitcomesque misunderstandings and hurt feelings that left me feeling unimpressed.

Talky Talk: This Love Triangle Is Not Acute One

I'm sorry, Hope, but sometimes you come in second in the game of love. And it's okay to stay friends. It's okay to be bitter. It's okay to ponder what might have been. But when you spend your days obsessing about someone else's boyfriend, making sure you spend every possible moment with him, and starting a club just so he'll have to spend time with you (see below)...not cool. Imagine if this book was about a boy who acted that way around a girl. You'd call him a stalker.

Meanwhile Parker, who has a secretly terrible home life, kind of bounces around like a beach ball, ashamed to take the charity of others, and afraid to speak up. She wasn't unlikable, but part of me just wanted her to have it out with Hope. She's the girlfriend, after all. She has rights.

Hope's Mexican-American mother was sweet, constantly acting as a surrogate mom to all of Hope's friends and throwing parties at the drop of a hat. But she was just a little too good to be true. Every character should have flaws, especially adults in YA. Hope's mother did not.

There were also some major personality flops and an ending that was just a little too saccharine for me.

Bonus Factor: Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who'd draw ridiculously complex machines designed to do the most mundane tasks. Once merely amusing drawings, the construction of such devices is now an actual competition. When Brady becomes enamored with a YouTube video of such a machine, that's all it takes for Hope. She founds a Rube Goldberg club with some of her awesomely nerdy friends so that Brady will be forced to spend time with her.

And Parker deals with it. "Oh, you have to work on your balloon popping machine with Hope again? That's okay. I understand."

Bromance Status: Take Separately

If you take Brady out of the equation, both girls have the potential to be awesome lead characters. But as Professor Goldberg has shown us, every part is critical to the whole.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor an automatic, octopus-powered juicer for writing this review.

 

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.