Kindle Price: $2.99
Official Rating: 3/5
“The high school play is in two months and senior Wren Barlow just became director. Wren still isn’t over the fact that she got stiffed as a stagehand instead of the lead role that she totally deserved. Now she is in charge of rehearsals, costumes, navigating around cast member hookups and managing the real life drama at home.
The principal counts on her to succeed because tickets have been sold and the money has been spent. But when he drops a gorgeous bad boy on her and wants him to help the play for extra credit, she falls hard for someone she knows she can’t date. With everything spinning out of control, the mysterious and secretive detention king named Derek has a few tricks up his sleeve and wants to help—too bad Wren is scared to give him a chance to prove himself.”
This was such a cute romance and I loved it. There were some things I didn’t like, but I still I adored Understudy.
Wren Barlow, truly an amusing and engaging character. Young wrote her as a realistic and relatable teenager and I was impressed. Instead of making Wren “not like other girls.” or “better than the rest.” or giving Wren the usual “I’m not fat, but when I look in the mirror…” in order to make her somewhat relatable. Wren was just Wren and that’s all she needed to be in order to be a great character. Truth be told, one of my favorite lines from Wren was, “I’m not fat,” I say confidently, because I know I’m not fat.” I cannot begin to explain how beautiful of a declaration it was. The confidence, the self-pride, the self-respect…it was wonderful to read and I highly respect Young for giving Wren that type of attitude. I also appreciated that Young didn’t make Wren automatically not believe or have heard the rumors or the lies that spread around her school. It just isn’t realistic, you’re definitely going to hear and possibly believe the rumors that fly around in school. I liked that even though she pretended to not have heard them, she wasn’t very good at lying nor was it done in a way to impress Derek. It was just good ole’ teenage nerves. Unfortunately, Wren wasn’t a perfect character. When Derek specifically tells her that he cannot under no circumstances tell her a secret that he has a right to keep, she completely loses it. I know that seeing your crush text someone whose contact name is “Lexie <3” is very incriminating, but where is the trust? Instead of just waiting for him to be ready to tell her what it is, Wren starts to treat him horribly. He even asks her why she’s treating him with such disdain and she recognizes that he’s hurt, but just continues to do so. It was terrible and I wish Wren had handled it better. However, that is who Wren is and if there’s ever another book, it’s something she can work on. Another issue, one that absolutely made me uncomfortable with Wren’s priorities: Wren’s best friend Margot, who I assume is seventeen like Wren, is dating a twenty-one year old man in college. And instead of expressing concern or wanting to know who Jordan (the twenty-one year old) is, Wren’s response is: “Margot’s next two weeks of dashing off after rehearsal to visit Jordan turns out to be a great thing. It means I get to hang out with Derek after school and not have to make up lies as to why I can’t sit on Margot’s pillowtop mattress and watch reruns of Supernatural with her.” That’s called being a terrible friend. You would rather casually shrug off the fact that your “best friend” is going up to visit someone in college just because you want to hangout with Derek without lying to her? That’s terrible judgement, I feel bad for Margot.
Speaking of Derek, finally, a self-respecting bad boy. Derek was a special character because he wasn’t the normal (overused, cliche, annoying, shall I go on?) bad boy where their first meeting goes something like this:
Bad boy (ultimately named something really manly and “dangerous sounding”): “Stay away from me. I’m dangerous. I’ll eventually hurt you if you don’t leave me alone.”
“Good girl” (ultimately named something a name that is easily turned into a “cute” nickname): *thinks* I know I should stay away..but the devilish gleam in his blue ocean chlorine-filled pool-like eyes just kept drawing me in. One look and I was drowning in them. “I won’t stay away, you’re just going to have to deal with it.”
Narration: Dustin’s eyes seemed to get darker as I said this, but I didn’t care. I think I was already falling for him.
Dustin: “Just stay away from me.”
Narration: He glared at me one last time with his gorgeous swirling cloudless-sky-blue eyes before turning around and walking away. I sighed. What have I gotten myself into?
I hope you’re all nodding in agreement because this is highly common in a scary amount of romance novels. Fortunately, not for Understudy. Instead, Derek is introduced in a cute scene inside a wood-working shop where he’s not shown off as mysterious with a taste of danger, but rather charismatic and knowledgable. I loved it. Not to mention, he didn’t punch walls or break mirrors in jealous anger or one minute be really sweet and the next be angry and wild. No, Derek was a normal teenaged male. The type of normal that no one considers normal because of the new normal that has been put into books that isn’t actually normal. Make sense? He was impossible not to love. At one point, Wren makes a comment that is quite rude (more than once actually). Instead of clenching his jaw and gripping the steering wheel until his knuckles turns white, Derek explains to Wren what his thoughts are and calls her out for her blatant judgemental comment. I was shocked. His response was calm, rightfully insulted, and smooth. Absolutely beautiful deliverance. Derek’s protectiveness wasn’t taken to the extreme either. He wasn’t glaring at every male that talked to Wren, but if there was an actual threatening situation to anyone, he stepped up and tried to solve it. First, by talking and then other means if needed. An excellent role model for anyone who wants to write the male love interest for their own young adult novel. That is the type of love interest I would want to read about. If there were more scenes between him and Wren, so that they could have more cute moments, I would have appreciated it, but it didn’t subtract from their chemistry.
The plot was completely unique. I have participated in plays years ago and it can be quite frustrating. Some people don’t remember their lines, you don’t remember your line, running through the same scene twenty-six times, etc. But it’s all worth it when you finally present on stage. Is the particular situation Wren faces realistic? To be honest, I don’t know and I don’t care. It felt real enough to me and why ruin the experience trying to figure out if everything in a fictional novel is correct? The plot as a whole was assembled smoothly with obvious care.
The characters that were a part of the story line were all significant. From Gwen Summers to Wren’s aunt to Ricky Silvas, each and every character that Young had participate in Wren’s life were not plot-pushers but necessary people that helped shape what high-school life really is like.
Young’s writing, as I said, was profound and she helped to keep me excited to read the next page throughout the whole book. Not an easy feat, but she did it. My only two issues: The cursing and a quote I will add later. They’re both very minor issues however. While I don’t usually enjoy books that contain an excessive amount of expletives, I do understand why they were in Understudy. Did I feel there was too many? Yes. But, if we’re being honest with ourselves, teenagers do curse. They curse in school, in text messages, on Facebook, and that’s how it is. So, I do understand. Definitely don’t read the book if that bothers you though, there were quite a lot.
This quote (which threw me for a loop) was in Wren’s thoughts about Derek: “There’s something in his smile that makes me want to rip off my shirt and throw myself into his arms, declaring my soul as his love slave, like some lunatic in an Axe body wash commercial.” I beg your pardon, what? What kind of a thought is that? She wants to rip off her shirt and declare her soul as his love slave? Because of his smile? What?
All things considered, Understudy was enjoyable and if curse words won’t bother you too much, I would recommend it.