Monday, May 30, 2011

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else (Book Review)

I have been reading but not blogging during the last few busy months at work. I put this on my TBR when I saw it was a RITA nominee, and really enjoyed it:

Title: I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
Author: Erin McCahan
Publication: Scholastic 2010, ISBN 978-0-545-088183
Genre: YA Romance

Plot: Seventeen year old Bronwen Oliver has felt alienated from her family since her father died when she was a child, and her mother remarried Bronwen’s kind but detached stepfather. Then during the summer between her junior and senior year of high school she runs into her older brother’s best friend, Jared Sondervan, and falls madly for him. Surprisingly, it is mutual, despite four years age difference. His warm and affectionate family welcomes her, and Jared surprises her with an engagement ring on her 18th birthday. Jared’s love and attentiveness almost makes up for Bronwyn’s lingering sorrow at the loss of her father. Can she finally move on with her life by starting a new life with Jared?

What I liked:
Bronwen is a nice, normal, hard-working high school student, with a best friend Kristen, and mild fantasies about having been switched at birth. How else can she explain why she and her mother can barely communicate? (and there is something really bizarre about the way her mother had Bronwen’s brown hair colored blonde as a 13th bday present, then comments, “Finally, I see a resemblance [to herself].” When Jared appears, attractive, relaxed, attentive, and very romantic – his last words on the phone every night are “Dream of me” – Bronwen is more than ready to fall in love with Jared and with his family. Perhaps because Jared’s father and Bronwen’s father are business partners, no one seems to object to the age difference, and by the end of the summer they are engaged. Bronwen gives up aspirations to any college other than Hope College in Michigan (I was surprised to learn this is a real college) because she has made friends while visiting Jared there and feels at home. She floats through her whole senior year in a pleasant haze and does not emerge until she received the housing questionnaire from Hope and suddenly realizes she will be living off campus with Jared instead of in a dorm sharing her innermost thought with friends. This helps her realize that she wants a normal college life more than she wants or needs the security of being married. And when she breaks her engagement, it is her stepfather who provides the comfort and reassurance she needs, not her mother.

I like that Jared is attractive but not as handsome as Bronwen’s evil ex, Chad, who pressured her to have sex on Prom night. Jared respects that Bronwen wants to wait until they are married but in a way that doesn’t deprive him of sex appeal (I suppose the waiting for sex until after marriage is one reason for an early wedding). Bronwen does not doubt her love for him but is afraid she is being consumed by it before she has established her own identity.

The descriptions of Hope College reminded me a little of The Real Thing, Rosamond du Jardin’s book about Tobey Heydon’s college experience when she and her boyfriend Brose decide to attend different schools so they can find out if their high school romance will last. In a way, it seemed odd that Tobey and Brose had so much more common sense in 1951 when young marriages were common than Bronwen and Jared in the 21st century. I have a particular fondness for The Real Thing because it is one of the first books I remember buying for myself – it was a $.50 Berkley Medallion paperback with the plaid binding, and I bought it at Books and Pages in Newton, Massachusetts (never dreaming I would one day work for Berkley). I still own that book, although have not yet unpacked it.

What I disliked:
Jared started off charming but became annoying and controlling quite a while before Bronwen noticed. By the time he told her they were moving to Ohio and she wouldn’t be able to attend Hope, I was longing for her to break the engagement. It seemed too simplistic that she fell in love so easily merely because she craved a father figure.

Bronwen’s mother (and to some extent, her brother, noticeable despite his absence) is dreadful, and I went back and forth wondering whether she was a plausible character. Could anyone be that self-centered? And what were all these parents thinking to let a sheltered 17 year old date a college senior? And why would they let them plan a wedding after dating such a short time? (Jared, after all, is on the rebound and perhaps seeking someone younger and more docile than the girl who let him down.) I am trying to think if I know anyone who got married at 18.

Bronwen has a great best friend, Kristen, and when they fall out senior year it is a Sign. Nothing good ever results from dissing your best friend for some guy, in fiction or in real life. It made me sad to read that even though they both attend Hope, they do not remain best friends, but I suppose that is realistic. At least they stay friends. I hope the author writes a book about Kristen!

Grade/Source: 4.5/5 stars I got this book from the Lexington Library.