A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin


Title: A Really Awesome Mess
Author: Trish Cook
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Format: eBook
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
Overall: 3 out 5 stars


A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.


Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.

Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.


Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.


Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.

A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.




A Really Awesome Mess started out really slow, and I really didn’t like either character for the first 25%. It really bothered me that their perceptions of the people around them were so off. I mean I understand they’re teenagers, but they were so incredibly selfish that it really grated on my nerves.


I thought that Emmy was a unique character, especially because she never mentioned an eating disorder when we were getting the explanation of why she was at Heartland Academy. At first Emmy’s problems seemed pretty superficial in comparison to the other kids. It makes me feel bad saying that, because one person’s trauma shouldn’t be judged against another. However, until she mentioned an eating disorder I was seriously questioning her reason for being there. It’s difficult because Emmy definitely has an eating disorder, but food is not the root of her issues. It was interesting to see how a feeling that seems silly and shallow could lead to something like anorexia.


Justin was harder because he was very clearly depressive. That’s something that I think most people have struggled with at some point. Perhaps not on Justin’s level, but most people have experienced situational depression at least. Justin’s situation seemed pretty awful from the beginning. In addition to his depression, he had a father who was the definition of absentee parent. It was hard because you only got to see his family from Justin’s perspective. At the end when you meet them you can see how wrong Justin is. He has a great mom and step-dad, and they do really love him. His poor mother was just a wreck, and seeing that made it hard for me to understand Justin’s anger with her.


The book’s strength is that it shows just how off teenage perceptions can be. While it bothered me at first, it is very accurate. The relationships between the kids and their parents felt realistic to me. These kids didn’t have bad relationships with their parents, but they weren’t best friends either. A Really Awesome Mess is the most true representation of teenage life I’ve read in a long time.


Cook and Halpin did a great job with the character development, but there were still things that just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t that the characters were too raw, they just felt too immature for their age groups. I don’t mind broken and damaged characters, but these kids here whiny brats. It felt realistic, but it was also a little too much. There was also a scene where Emmy’s therapist talks about how when things aren’t communicated, people will fill them with negatives. I thought that was really interesting, and it was something that stuck with me after finishing the book.


Overall, I would give this A Really Awesome Mess 3 out of 5 stars. I did enjoy it, and I really liked in the end when both Emmy and Justin started to grow up. It was nice to be able to see them evolve from where they were at the beginning. It was just a little too much drama. I would definitely keep an eye out for anything else by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin.


3/5 – Worth Reading

**Please Note: This review is my honest opinion and I did not receive monetary compensation from it.**

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Happy Reading Everyone!