Title: Calmer Girls [Calmer Girls 1]
Author: Jennifer Kelland Perry
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Samantha Cross is introverted, highly sensitive, and is falling in love for the first time. The biggest problem? The guy she’s falling for is her older sister’s boyfriend, Ben Swift.
Her sister Veronica is beautiful, outgoing, and confident. Samantha is used to her sister getting all of the attention and everything she wants, even if she’s never liked it. But now they’re being torn apart by love for the same boy, their parents’ separation and mother’s declining emotional state, and their move away from Calmer Cove into city life in St. John’s.
As her life crumbles apart around her, Samantha’s feelings for Ben only grow stronger. Then she finds out the boy driving the vintage Thunderbird has mysterious issues of his own. Will Samantha let Veronica keep the only boy she’s ever loved, or will she end up ruining her sister’s happiness to take control of her own? Tensions between the siblings escalate, and Samantha is torn between doing what she thinks is right and acting on her heart’s desire. One thing becomes clear: One of the Cross sisters is in for a broken heart.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I have to say, Calmer Girls by Jennifer Kelland Perry was not exactly what I expected. Though labeled as a Young Adult Contemporary Romance, I would venture to say that the book isn’t much of a romance at all. Instead, I’d say that the true calling of this book is as a Contemporary Coming of Age story, or perhaps even venturing into Literary territory. Romance it was not – because despite the core of the plot revolving around a single boy who has two sisters falling madly in love with him…. there really isn’t much romance to be had. This was more of a story about a broken family in a small town trying their best to skate by in life, and the bumps that got in their way. One of those bumps just happened to be a boy equally as broken as they are.
The plot dealt with themes of domestic abuse, adultery, divorce, alcoholism, dementia, teen pregnancy, and a whole host of other problems, and for the most part, the author integrated these believably into the narrative. I did have a few qualms though that kept this from being a five-star read. Maybe it is my ignorance surrounding the local of the story – and that may very well be – but despite the fact that two underage girls were drinking alcohol and having sex with a boy who was very much considered an adult (18), there was never any mention in the narrative by any of the characters about the dangers of what they were doing from the law’s perspective. The girls never made a nod to the idea that what they were doing could be considered illegal or how their actions may play out for the boy (man) they were dating. I’d be willing to even let that slide, considering the terrible parenting the girls were in the midst of at the time… but there was another problem. I had a hard time pinning down Samantha, the protagonist of our story and the voice of narration. Though clearly written to be 16 years of age, she didn’t act 16. The language she used and her thought processes tended to meander between being hopelessly naïve – making her seem barely older than 10 or 12 – or they pushed her in the other direction and made her seem much older than she was.
I didn’t dislike the book, however. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed their troubles and drama, and for the most part, the book was very well written and engaging. Overall, I really enjoyed the story. If you like literary coming of age stories, I think this book will probably be right up your alley – but I wouldn’t go into reading it thinking that it will be a true YA Romance, because that isn’t really what it is – and you’ll be disappointed if that’s what you’re looking for.
On a more personal note: I really wanted Samantha to wizen up and date Kalen. He seemed sweet.