Monday, November 29, 2010

Debut Review: I Now Pronounce You Someone Else

Erin McCahan
Bronwen Alexis Oliver longs to be Someone Else. Stuck in a family where they discuss the news at the dinner table and avoid all topics of personal interest, Bronwen used to think she was switched at birth. Her real family would be normal and her real mother would be okay with having a brown-haired daughter. And then Bronwen runs into Jared Sondervan, a family friend a few years older than her, and she falls in love with him. Him and his wonderful, normal family. When he proposes, she accepts, and spends Senior Year planning a wedding, rushing headlong into becoming an Us and starting her life with Jared, not quite realizing what she might be giving up.

This book is something special. Though the hook here is Bronwen and Jared's engagement and upcoming wedding, that's not really what the book is about. Or, it is. It is and it isn't, because there's so much more here. The story covers a long period of time, starting in Bronwen's junior year, when she runs into Jared at a coffee shop and their relationship begins. The marriage proposal doesn't come until past the halfway mark of this book, meaning that while it's easy to think of this as a story about a wedding, it's actually a love story that starts at the very beginning. Bronwen is a well-developed protagonist who's a lot different from a lot of main characters I've read lately. The issues she's dealing with in the book are ones that I haven't previously seen handled in YA (and haven't seen handled well at all) and McCahan pulls it off. Bronwen is smart, loving, and kind, but also very confused and - dare I say it? - neglected. Jared, on the other hand, is anything but confused and neglected. He's kind, loving, quietly funny, and knows who he is and what he wants much better than Bronwen does. The relationship between them is portrayed wonderfully, and though it sometimes seems too perfect, this is easy to forgive. The unrealistic parts are balanced nicely by the too realistic parts of this book.

As for Bronwen's family - her super-polite mother, kind stepfather, and considered-perfect brother - there's a lot there. And a lot of it isn't good. Though I loved her stepfather, Whitt, and loved the story of their relationship, it's difficult for me to name a character I hate as much as I hate Bronwen's mother. The relationship her and Bronwen share has all the tension and emotional baggage that mother/daughter relationships come with, except that the mom in this case is also absolutely horrible in the most subtle, rage-inducing ways that often don't come out until near the end of the book.

My biggest issue with this book is the pacing. Everything was floating along at a nice, leisurely pace until the point when Jared proposed, and then it was like we were zooming along at double speed. In a way this makes sense because of how busy Bronwen's life suddenly became and all that was happening, but at the same time I felt like we covered a huge amount of time (about two years) in too short a space (less than half the book). There were some times, especially when it came to Bronwen's post-high-school life, that I wanted to take more time with and know more about. In the end a lot seemed like an infodump, like meeting up with an old friend you haven't seen in years and catching up on everything going on in your lives in a twenty-minute coffee stop. I wanted more.

The ending here is incredibly open-ended, a little too vague for my tastes, but I don't think it will make people too angry the way a more definitive ending might have. I know it sounds like a cop-out, but there's really no way to end this book leaving everyone happy, and I think the author did a good job of it in spite of that. Bottom line: this is a great book. It's more than what you expect, covers issues I wasn't expecting, and manages to be a traditional-style love story while also being more than that.

1 comment:

  1. I love the title of this book - and can I say that I am really digging your blog at the moment? - this review is amazing! I really want to check out this book ASAP to see what you're referring to about Bronwen's family and the pacing, etc. Thanks!