Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman
Release Date: Feb. 2010
Charlie Healey, a freshman, believes that Harmony Falls will be her reboot to life. No longer subjected to the abuse of her “best friends,” she’s ready to hide her past away and become someone new. But on her very first day she’ll learn that you simply cannot outrun your past. Faced with a best friend turned hunk and a girl she terribly wronged, Charlie learns to blend the old with the new. She’ll need to learn to conquer old demons if she ever truly plans to achieve a new start. Amidst it all, Charlie will face many challenges such as jerky boys, a prank gone wrong, and learning what boundaries are okay to cross. Will Charlie shrink back into her shell or will she finally be brave enough to do the right thing?
The Short of It: Ah, so nice to have a book I really enjoyed. This was the first book I had read by Wiseman and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was a fun story about discovering who you are, correcting old wrongs, and standing up and doing what’s right. A story of friendship and life that’s worth checking out.
Plot: Ok, so I admit that the plot didn’t have a lot of originality. In fact, you may even say a lot of it was predictable, but something about it really pulled me in. Beyond the stereotypes, it is an honest story about a freshman getting a second chance as she figures out the truths to life. It’s about friendship and and learning to break out of one’s shell. Having been in Charlie’s shoes most of my life, I could easily relate to the storyline and it rang true to me. But don’t think that this book is all seriousness because there are still a lot of fun, crazy, and even drama filled moments. All around, I really do think it’s a fun plot (cliques and all)!
Characters: I think Charlie is a love her or hate her type character. Being where Charlie has been, I didn’t find her as annoying as I normally may have. I understand the power that some people can have over others, but I’m really not sure why Charlie allowed herself to be stomped on and belittled for so long. At first, I thought maybe it was just because she was weak, but I no longer think that’s the case. She obviously had enough courage to break tradition and tell someone of authority about the hazing issue. Something that had been going on for years, that no one else had really been willing to challenge and see that it changed. Not to mention the way she told off her former “best friends” during the dance. That kind of courage/strength doesn’t just appear because you’re going to a new school; I just don’t understand why she didn’t use it much, much sooner. Other than that, I really did like Charlie. She was a nerdy/smart girl, who although clueless at times, really did have a lot of substance to her.
Of course, I think her best friends, Sydney and Nidhi, really helped bring her to life. Both girls were smart and sassy and didn’t allow anyone to bulldoze over them. I kind of wish Wiseman would have fleshed them out more than she had though. For the most part, they were kind of stuck in the background (especially Nidhi) and never truly got to shine. I felt like there could have been so much more to them than being Charlie’s cheerleaders or filling the high school persona quota. It really is your classic case of secondary character who have so much potential that is never fully reached.
Romance: Without ruining anything here, I’m going to say that most of the romance is a read between-the-lines one. A lot of that high school drama of “oh he could never like me” type stuff. This is probably the area that felt the most cliquish to me. You’ve got the hunky jock who will inevitable like the sexy friend and then the boy who she grew up with who is just a “friend”. But while there is a lot of back-and-forth teasing and whatnot, nothing really happens until the last page. Like, literally, the last page. While there are couple of sweet moment here or there, don’t expect a heart-throb, sweep you off your feet romance.
Writing: Really no complaints whatsoever here. Wiseman really does weave a good story, even if it has all been done before. I was sucked into her world right away and never felt myself bored/not caring. The story flowed with ease and had me eager to see how it would turn out.
Librarian-Mode: I feel like I’ve been reading a lot and lot of chick-lit lately and have been giving the same recommendations over and over. Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials really is your typical high school drama full of peer pressure, friendship, and kicking away the norm. There are hundreds of books out there like that so I won’t go off naming them all. But if I were making a booklist I would easily throw this onto one with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Real Real, and Little Black Lies.