Cover of Counting Backwards, with a girl wearing white and looking down in front of the same image, but with her looking at the viewer

About the Book

Title: Counting Backwards
Published: 2012
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Double Big Face
BFF Charm: Meh
Talky Talk: Plain and Simple
Bonus Factors: Sassy Best Friend, Diversity
Relationship Status: Rehab Buddies

Cover Story: Double Big Face

As if one big face wasn’t enough, this book cover gives us two! And one is staring creepily at the viewer, while the other looks ready for prison/virgin sacrifice. GREAT! AWESOME! THANKS FOR THE HEEBIE JEEBIES.

The Deal:

Taylor Truwell doesn’t really deserve to be locked up in a rehab facility for trouble teens. After all, she’s not the alcoholic of the family (that honor goes to her mother), nor is she as cold or unfeeling as her father, who basically left Taylor alone to deal with her increasingly drunken mother. If anything, it’s her parents that should be going to rehab, not her. But when she tried to steal a car to run away from home, she lands herself at Sunny Meadows. (Of COURSE it’s called Sunny Meadows. Who do these places think they’re fooling? Let’s just be honest and call it The Soul Crushing Place or Teenage Jail Where You Talk About Your Feelings.) After falling victim to the Latina Queens (they’re like the Plastics without the pretend niceness), Taylor is determined to bust out herself out rehab. But in her quest to escape, she gets to know AJ, a quiet giant who may be her salvation… just not in the way she expects.

BFF Charm: Meh

BFF charm with a :-| face

I don’t know, Taylor. I mean, I feel for you, because you’ve had a pretty crappy life thus far, and your mom is a hot mess, and your dad is kind of a dick. I understand why you hate it at home, and I understand why you hate Sunny Meadows. Your anger and your frustration and your sadness–all of these feelings make sense to me buuuuut it doesn’t mean I want to deal with them. Look, you need someone who can handle your baggage, and girlfriend, I’m just too old for that shizz. Plus there’s the whole thing about how you’re STUBBORN AS HELL and REFUSE TO SEE REASON, and even when people try to help you, you push them away. And actually, you should be glad that we’re not besties, because I would totally steal A.J. away from your stubborn ass. But hey! I’m rooting for you! Seriously! P.S. Tell your friend and fellow inmate Margo Blanchard to CALL ME.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

A.J. is a gentle (well, sometimes) giant who lives directly below Taylor’s cell room. He doesn’t speak in public, and his silence just makes it that much more tantalizing when he and Taylor finally have a conversation. Their first real encounter, in the pitch black of the basement, is super tingly and unexpectedly hot, and his feelings for her are sweetly earnest, providing a sexy contrast with his thuggish appearance. I really wish Taylor hadn’t been such a BIOTCH to him for so much of the book because she totally deprived us all of some serious swoon, but A.J.’s mere presence was enough to make me feel it in my toes.

Talky Talk: Plain and Simple

Lascarso’s sparse style gets straight to the point, and the voice she’s given to Taylor is honest and layered. Her words don’t really pack an emotional punch, nor did they fully transport me into Taylor’s world, but the pacing of the book hums right along and keeps the reader engaged. I appreciated Lascarso’s avoidance of any melodrama or sentimental bullshizz, especially since it’s easy to resort to clichés when writing about troubled teens. Taylor’s feelings come from a raw place of hurt and abandonment, and while Lascarso didn’t always make those emotions vivid, she certainly made them real.

Bonus Factor: Sassy Best Friend

Screenshot from Mean Girls, with Janis and Damian sitting together on the grass

MARGO BLANCHARD I LOVE YOU. And between you and me, I kiiiind of wish the book had been all about you and your fabulousness. You’re exactly the friend that Taylor needs, and I really admired how much you cared about her and tried to support her at Sunny Meadows. Plus you’re a little bit crazy, AND you’re a former child actor, so that automatically makes you Excellent Company.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

Taylor is half Seminole Indian, and she fondly remembers her grandmother, who would tell her the tales of her people while they sat on her porch at the reservation. It’s not a huge facet of the book, but I liked the depth that Taylor’s culture added to her character.

Relationship Status: Rehab Buddies

I was grateful when I spotted this book as a friendly face in the cafeteria. After all, there’s a lot of bad books around here, and I reeeeally didn’t want to mess with them. This book and I weren’t kindred spirits, per se, but it kept me entertained until my time in rehab was done. I appreciated its honesty, and I was more than glad that it introduced me to A.J. I don’t expect that we’ll keep in touch on the outside, but it was good, solid company during all of the cheesy therapy sessions and forced manual labor. Book, it’s been real.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Atheneum Books.  I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!).

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.