Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

Unconventional – Maggie Harcourt Review

 

Unconventional-Maggie-Harcourt

Rating: ★★★★

Continuing the recent trend of YA contemporary books convincing me that I’m wrong when I say I don’t really enjoy YA contemporary books, Unconventional is one of the most enjoyable reads in a while. It was fun, light, and made me swoon. I loved the characters, the romance, and the convention setting. It’s a book for people who like books, so I fell right into it.

I actually knew nothing about Unconventional when I picked it up, but I had seen some bloggers raving about it on social media, but this book is about a girl who runs conventions (clever title alert!). Lexi Angelo lives, breathes and eats conventions. Her dad has been planning them for years, and she loves being his trusty assistant. Every year, the pair of them, along with other similar convention families that she has grown up with, put on convention after convention, and when the season is over, they plan for the next. When Lexi reads the yet to be released fantasy novel Piecekeepers, she knows that it’s going to be the next big thing. She tells her dad that they have to get the author, Haydn Swift, as a guest at their next convention. Little does she know however, that her and Haydn Swift have met before, and it wasn’t good. But Haydn is more than he seems. Over the course of the convention season, Lexi and Haydn meet several times, and during late night conversations and emails, she realises that Haydn is just one side of him. The real man, Aiden, is shy, and kind, and funny. Can she get to grips with Aiden’s two lives, and can she let go of her own perfectly scheduled life?

The best things about this book were the characters and the setting. I loved the convention setting, and the fact that the book is set almost exclusively during conventions. I also felt like the setting brought Lexi’s character to life as we see her at work. We see her running around, solving problems, ordering people around via walkie-talkie. Lexi is great at her job, and I really enjoyed seeing a YA protagonist at work like this. The other convention kids were also so much fun. Cosplaying Samira, Bede, and Nadiya always provided some humour to make a scene more fun, and I liked seeing really healthy friendships between kids who have grown up together There was no cliched friend backstabbing, or falling out, these guys know each other inside and out, and they love each other – even if they do argue about who is going to handle the registration desk.

The relationship between Aiden and Lexi was also a lot of fun to read. This novel is not a story with twisting plots or surprises, it is predictable, but it is also sweet. Aiden and Lexi start off on the wrong foot, and then we see them getting to know each other over the course of the next few conventions, and I really enjoyed these scenes. They were like something straight out of a romcom, filled with teasing and playing, and getting accidentally locked in rooms together. I had no problem with the predictability of this story, because the writing is light and funny, but I did find it hard to relate to Lexi’s anxieties when it came to the relationship. I felt like I would have liked a bigger ‘problem’ to come between Aiden and Lexi, because to be honest, I just didn’t see the problem. Lexi worries that Haydn is so different to Aiden, but I didn’t understand why she couldn’t just accept that he had a public persona when he was ‘working’. When the pair finally did have a fight towards the end of the novel, I was excited to see the fallout and the reunion, but I didn’t feel like this was really addressed. The resolution to the problem was sort of skimmed over too much in my opinion, as if the book was racing towards its romantic end without ironing out the story first.

Although I have said that the story is a fun, light, and predictable read, I was also quite moved by Lexi’s personal story. Lexi loves conventions, and she’s good at them, but over the course of the novel she has to accept that maybe her world is bigger than just conventions. I liked her realisation that there was so much more that she could try and see, but I would have liked to have seen a little more of her future, or at least more of a conclusion as I felt like her epiphany was a bit general and open-ended. I also would have liked to have learned a bit more about her time at school. There are quite a few hints that Lexi doesn’t manage to balance school and conventions very well and that she feels like a bit of an outcast. Although I understand that her ‘normal’ life is quite separate from conventions, it would have been nice to have seen a teensy bit. Especially considering that the novel is set between spring and autumn,  I was at least expecting to see a mention of the exams that a sixth form student would be sitting in that time. It felt a bit odd, for a novel with teenage characters that felt so real, so just skim over something that is such a big part of your life at that age.

Overall though, Unconventional was so much fun. I felt like some aspects of the story and Lexi’s life were only dealt with superficially, but that doesn’t mean that the book isn’t a hell of a lot of fun. I laughed out loud at several points reading this book, and swooned – along with Lexi. After all, who doesn’t want to fall in love with a young, dashing author with great hair?

 

 

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