A boy and girl's legs peek out under a large painting they're holding

About the Book

Title: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare 
Published: 2012
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: At Least Their Heads Exist Somewhere?
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Je Ne Sais Quoi
Bonus Factors: Fake History, Food
Relationship Status: My Favorite Art Museum Buddy

Cover Story: At Least Their Heads Exist Somewhere?

Oh, look, another book cover with headless people! I haven’t seen any of those ever! At least in this book, their heads still exist in some version of reality; they’re just hidden by the large painting. That, uh, they have their hands all over. In the middle of an art museum. Where they are clearly making out. And might at any minute drop the valuable painting. OH! This cover is making me kind of nervous! Don’t ruin the art, horny kids!!

The Deal:

Ella Marino spends most of her days being completely ignored by all of the rich, elitist kids who populate her posh Philadelphia private school, and that’s just fine with her. Even if she weren’t a scholarship kid, a middle class girl with a large, loud Italian family, she wouldn’t want to draw attention to herself because of the large burn covering her shoulder and part of her neck.

So anonymity’s just fine with Ella, thank you very much, because she has her two best friends and her one true love, Edward. Edward’s sensitive, romantic, talented and a bit moody. He’s also dead, and has been for nearly 100 years. Yeah, so, Ella’s a little taken with a historical figure, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t notice Alex Bainbridge. Smart, slick, and boyfriend to the meanest of the Mean Girls. That Alex Bainbridge.

But when Alex and Ella are thrust together for French tutoring, their chemistry starts sizzling, and it isn’t long before Ella thinks it might be time to dump Dedward Edward and try out someone with a pulse . . .

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

I really like Ella! She has a lot of self-esteem issues stemming from the burn that scarred part of her body and the subsequent bullying she endured. And while she loves her family, she’s still is embarrassed by them, as loud and as nosey as they can be. And she’s wrapped up in her fantasy of Edward Willing, a dead Post-Impressionist artist whose family endowed Ella’s school. (heh. Willing Girls. heh.) And I TOTALLY GET THAT! You guys, when I was in high school, I was PRETTY CONVINCED that Fox Mulder and I were going to get married. Not David Duchovny, mind, but Fox Mulder (and I love that I’m clarifying that the dream of marrying a famous Hollywood actor twenty years older than me would have just been WAY too sensible for 14-year-old me). We were going to get married, have babies, and finally prove the conspiracy that our government was in contact with aliens who had the ability to change appearances. That bitch Scully was going to learn her place, too.

So, yeah. I would totally invite Ella to be my BFF. But I’d partly be doing it because then I could hang out with Frankie, her fabulous, sarcastic, ball-busting gay BFF. Oh, Frankie. You are the bestie of my heart!

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Holla! I TOTALLY felt the swoony times between Ella and Alex. The quick but shy grins, the leaning, the KISSING, the canoodling . . . it was swoon central all up in this book! It helps as well that I just legitimately wanted Ella to get with Alex – he’s charming and kind, and maybe a little annoying with his utter bewilderment that people judge him based on how much money his family has, but ultimately kind-hearted. He brings Ella out of her shell and doesn’t let her use self-pity as a deflection for baring her feelings. Go Alex!

Talky Talk: Je Ne Sais Quoi

Reading this book is like having a sleepover with your best friend: giddy one minute, a little weepy the next, and ultimately soul restorative. Jensen’s writing isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’s solid and fun and sometimes exactly what I need to decompress. I was pretty stressed out this week while I was reading this book, but as soon as I got home or hit my lunch break and cracked this book open, I could feel my soul giving a little contented sigh. When it was over, I was genuinely sad that I couldn’t keep reading, and I felt like Ella, Frankie, Sadie and Alex were all my new friends.

Bonus Factor: Fake History

President Truman holding a newspaper incorrectly declaring Dewey as the winner of the 1948 election

Melissa Jensen does this to me every time! Well, two times. She’s done it to me twice. She invents some historical person, ties him or her to actual people and moments in history, and has me TOTALLY BELIEVING THAT THEY ARE REAL. I’m always left googling, convinced that I’ll find out that these people are real and I’ve just never heard of them before.

And so it was with Edward Willing: artist, Philadelphia elite, former paramour of Edith Wharton and famous enough to have at least a few (fictional) texts written about him.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

Pizza slice with stringy cheese still attached to the pie

Holla! Ella’s family owns an Italian restaurant and it’s right next to their house! So she’s always hanging out in the kitchen, snatching pesto, eating antipasto, and trying out her uncle’s increasingly bizarre concoctions (he’s trying out for Top Chef). I got SO HUNGRY reading this!! There are cannoli, people. CANNOLI.

Relationship Status: My Favorite Art Museum Buddy

I’m kind of uncultured, and what I know about art extends to “this is pretty” vs “this is not,” a flaw which disgusts most of my friends, not to mention my Masters in Art History/Reverend uncle. But hey, at least I don’t like Thomas Kinkaid, right? Things could be worse!

But Book, I think you might be just the friend I’m looking for. Sure, you’d go to the art museum with me, but you wouldn’t laugh at me when I can’t tell a Van Gogh from a Degas (okay, I can tell a Van Gogh from a Degas. Things aren’t that bad.) and when we got tired of looking at pretentious modern art, we could gossip about that cute boy you like! I could live vicariously through your swoony new relationship and sigh wistfully when I remembered that art museum gift shops don’t sell astronaut ice cream before remembering that your grandmother will make me some cannoli. Book, let’s be art museum besties!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Melissa Jensen/Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). The Fine Art of Truth or Dare is available in stores now!

Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.