The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin
ARC from Netgalley for a fair review.
Publish Date: August 29, 2017
“Being lost, being without the plan I’d armed myself with my entire life, got me out of my comfort zone in ways that challenged me and forced me to grow as a person.”
Maggie Ann Martin debut? I dub thee for fans of Kasie West and Morgan Matson.
The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin was a breath of fresh air in the YA contemporary category. Instead of a story about a 16 year old falling for that one guy that sweeps her off her feet in the most unexpected ways we are given the story of post high school but not quite adult. Where YA contemporary has steadily given us that high school romance and NA/Chicklit gives us those mid-twenties/fresh out of college taking on the world through middle age stories, Martin has delivered us a refreshing story that manages to land right in the middle. While The Big F dances around the typical tropes it doesn’t exactly take the same path.
Dani is fresh out of high school and as the daughter of a college guru she is
on her way to the college of her dreamsor not. She’s failed her AP English class and her acceptance into the communications program has been taken away leaving her without a college plan. That is until she meets Luke, the boy next door who held her heart till he moved away when she was 11, wearing a t-shirt advertising the local community college. She finds herself enrolled into a community college as a last ditch effort to hopefully get back on track. If only she could figure out how to handle her new budding relationship, passing her classes and getting back into the good graces of her parents.
Like I said before, I loved that this didn’t follow all the typical YA contemporary tropes, but they are there, just not obnoxiously…
Firstly, lets touch on the base that she has a healthy relationship with parents that are, wait a minute, still together. There was no tragic death of one of her parents or a divorce sparking some kind of character building. Her parents were together, her family spent time together, and her brother was normal. Now, this book didn’t pretend that the world was perfect as her friends have had their own parental issues. It just wasn’t one of the defining issues for Dani. In fact, everything Dani goes through is self-inflicted and she figures it out on her own.
The boy next door trope is probably the biggest cliché in this book. Thankfully, the story doesn’t completely drive this one home, and uses it merely as a spring board for the plot. You know what the best part of this one was? It was almost more of a reach for a familiar connection rather than the one next door that is suddenly confessed to.
Lastly, the friend that sets you right trope. Dani had two friends like this. She had a friend to set her right emotionally, and a friend to check her when she was drowning academically, what a lucky girl. Even though they were there for her though, it wasn’t like her friends had to knock her silly and talk sense into her; they were just there for that extra push.
Was this the next story to make your heart break into a million pieces and then soar to the moon? No, but it’s the type of book you can enjoy over a weekend, silently cheering her on and grinning and her foolheartedness
Dani-Okay, I really liked her. I think my favorite part of her was that though she had her romantic tendencies she felt so tangible. She was realistic, straight forward, and had her weaknesses that didn’t put her in the damsel in distress category. Despite making some key choices that she has to fix, she is still fairly level headed. She doesn’t need people telling her what to do, just the usual pat on the back and reassuring words.
Luke-What can I say really? He is pretty much the perfect boy next door. What makes him so perfect? He is the boy we dream about when we’re 11 but realize that everyone has their flaws even if they sit on such a high pedestal.
Porter-Everyone needs that one friend that shakes things up. Porter is that friend that introduces you to new things without making you go buck wild crazy that your family is completely concerned. I feel like all the Porters of the world are underappreciated, and I thank Martin for helping the “gangly boy” stand out.
Zoe-This girl has got to be the best wing woman ever. Martin did such a good job of incorporating a supportive friend without her own issues becoming the plot of the story. Zoe isn’t some magical creature that doesn’t have any drama per se, but the book wasn’t about her and she did a stellar job as a supporting character by not stealing any drama thunder.
Personally, I have always felt completely detached whenever I read about the following things in YA contemporaries who were obsessed with going to a university. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against this age old tradition of kids graduating high school and heading off to college. I loved that this book showed a little bit more of the alternative – the wonderful world of community college.
I consider my town a college town. Spokane has both Gonzaga and Whitworth, a remote campus for WSU downtown, EWU just a stone throw away in Cheney and two community colleges. I had the luxury of going to both community colleges over the course of five years, and while I missed the whole dorm/sorority bit, I don’t feel like I missed out on all that much as far as my education goes. I think one of my favorite parts of the book was really that Martin didn’t dog against community college, even though Dani’s mother was a consultant for college acceptance. It was refreshing to be reminded that while they don’t typically offer 4 year degrees, they are an amicable stepping stone for transferring to university for either catching up on requirements for a program or simply determining that maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to do.