Sunday, April 11, 2010

Book Review: The Naughty List by Suzanne Young

Title:  The Naughty List
Author:  Suzanne Young
Publisher:  Razorbill
Genre: YA
Hardcover: 272 pages
ISBN:   1595142789 
As if being a purrfect cheerleader isn’t enough responsibility!

Tessa Crimson’s the sweet and spunky leader of the SOS (Society of Smitten Kittens), a cheer squad–turned–spy society dedicated to bringing dastardly boyfriends to justice, one cheater at a time. Boyfriend-busting wouldn’t be so bad . . . except that so far, every suspect on the Naughty List has been proven 100% guilty!

When Tessa’s own boyfriend shows up on the List, she turns her sleuthing skills on him. Is Aiden just as naughty as all the rest, or will Tessa’s sneaky ways end in catastrophe? 

Overall rating:  7/10 flowers
Buy this book: IndieBound | The Book Depository | Powell's | Amazon | B & N 
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Suzanne Young's debut novel is the first in a trilogy of books about Tessa Crimson, the head of a secret organization of cheerleaders dedicated to catching cheating boyfriends red-handed and gathering  proof of their indiscretions to present to their wronged girlfriends.  As a reader who tends to gravitate toward paranormal & fantasy novels, this book is well outside of my typical genre preferences, but I still found it entertaining.  The Naughty List is a quick read that manages to be both funnier and more heart-wrenching than you might expect from the title and summary. 

What I Liked:
-     The idea of a group of somewhat stereotypical cheerleaders running an extremely organized non-profit service like the SOS is funny and clever.  I like the concept of girls helping other girls, enjoyed the SOS's memos & letters to their clients, and admired Tessa's dedication to keeping the team both professional & perky.
-     Tessa doesn't approve of cussing and using common slang, so she constantly replaces curse words and exclamations of surprise or approval with her very own terms like:  "Strawberry smoothie!", "Sugarplum fairies!", and "Gingersnap!"  That aspect of her personality is consistently amusing and helps make her a memorable character.
-     The tension between Tessa and her boyfriend's mom is believable.  It added to the complexity of Tessa's relationship with Aiden and made my heart go out to her.
-     The Smitten Kittens' high-tech investigative missions are very entertaining!
-     Tessa's parents' history added depth to her character and explained a lot about her intense commitment to maintaining her perky cheerleader persona all the time.  
-     There are lots of northwest-inspired references in this book, from Washington High's rival basketball teams including the Ducks and the Beavers to the Birkenstock-clad new kid.  As a northwest native myself, those references were fun to see!
-     I liked and respected Tessa & Aiden's relationship choice at the end of the book, and l look forward to seeing where the second novel in this series leads them both.
-     The book is conclusive enough not to drive readers crazy with suspense, but there are still several sub-plots to be resolved and lots of character development to be explored in the two sequels, So Many Boys and A Good Boy is Hard to Find.
What I Wished:
-     I really enjoyed SOS's investigative adventures, and I would like to have seen more of those scenes featured in the book. 
-     Knowing that this novel is about an organization of high school girls who spy on cheating boyfriends, I was not particularly surprised by the frequent sexual references, but the constant innuendo was still my least favorite aspect of the book.  All the actual hook ups take place off the page so The Naughty List is not explicit in a romance-novel-ish way, but it does seem that everyone at Washington High is sexually-active and that 99% of the guys are unfaithful and/or unscrupulous.  Those statistics seem a bit too depressing for the light and humorous tone of this book.
-     While physical chemistry is important, I often wished that Tessa and Aiden's relationship was not so centered on their physical attraction to one another.  After two or three scenes of them finding each other irresistible, their relationship began to seem a bit one-dimensional to me and I felt less motivated to root for them as a couple.  

The Naughty List is is a quick read with an original plot and a memorable protagonist.  I look forward to reading the next two books and am hoping to see more character development as Tessa moves into the next phase of her life at Washington High.  Readers can learn more about this book on Suzanne Young's blog, and can pre-order So Many Boys (6/10/10) HERE and A Good Boy is Hard to Find (11/25/10) HERE.  

CONTEST NOTE:  I've been lucky enough to see Suzanne Young at a couple of fun author events recently, and I am very happy to have picked up an extra signed copy of The Naughty List to share with one of my followers.  Contest details can be found HERE (ends 4/30).  :-)


Candace said...

Great review! Your choice of words for explaining it was so much better then mine. It's hard to review a book like this, so far out of my genre choice, though I do occasionally read similar books. I agree with every single thing you said! And I go on a 5 star rating system and gave it 3. But made a point to say, it's not my typical read and others may enjoy it more then I did. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. I'll also probably read the next two to see where it goes.

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