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“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”  ― Winston Churchill

Strangely Normal

Strangely Normal - Tess Oliver "Strangely Normal" is the wholly charming tale of Eden Saxon, a recent high school graduate who planned on attending college on a scholarship only to learn that, thanks to circumstances outside her control, she didn't qualify for one. Her school counselor offers her a way to make money for school: Finley King, the daughter of a rock legend, needs a companion for the summer. Before long, Eden is leaving the rundown apartment she shares with her parents and much younger sisters for the gated splendor of a Beverly Hills mansion. But it isn't the slamdunk job Eden thought it would be. Finley isn't the only resident of the palatial estate. There are Finley's older brothers to contend with: happy-go-lucky Cole, and brooding artist Jude. And Finley isn't the happy, cheerful girl she appears to be, either. Eden soon has her hands full navigating the undercurrents of the King family.

There are a LOT of things to like about this book. First, it is a welcome departure from the usual sturm und drang of most New Adult/edgy Young Adult romances. Yes, Eden comes from a background that is less than picture perfect. Her parents had her when they were sixteen, her dad can't hold down a job, her mom thinks nothing of driving her kids to school with a joint in her hand. In other books, this is an excuse for the heroine to be, at the minimum, messed up and teetering on the edge. But not Eden. Her parents might be screw ups, but they love their kids and each other. It's refreshing to read about a family that isn't picture perfect, but doesn't make you want to call Child Protective Services and a whole phalanx of psychologists.

Second, Eden is a charming, smart and perceptive narrator who rarely, if ever, feels false or forced. She has just the right amount of street and life smarts to be believable as an eighteen year old, yet she never falls into the festivals of stupid behavior we see from other NA/YA heroines.

Third, the King family is just as charming and strangely normal as Eden's family. Too often, life in a famous & rich family is depicted as a dysfunctional hellhole. The Kings aren't Leave it to Beaver or even Modern Family, but they also love and support each other. Again, it is incredibly refreshing in a sea of books with highly manufactured high drama.

The romance between Eden and Jude is slow to develop - no instalove here! - which also adds to the believability as well as the fresh feeling of the book. And for those who are tired of clinical descriptions of Tab A sliding into Slot B, the feels are all here, just not the mechanics.

The reason for four stars instead of five is that the book had several typos, confused homophones and punctuation errors. Nothing too jarring - I've certainly seen much, MUCH worse - but enough to make me wish a good editor had gone through the book so it would be as polished as it deserves to be. In addition, the final scenes didn't punch as much impact as they should have. Again, some careful editing and attention to detail could have made this book sing, instead of fall rather flat at the end.

But overall, a pretty enjoyable reading experience, especially compared to the same old, same old New Adult offerings out there.