Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Series Review: A Charmed Life

13182638Author: Jenny B. Jones
Publisher Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): YA Christian Contemporary
Pages:  976
(note: this series was released in a 3-in-1 type of thing)

Includes So Not Happening, I'm So Sure, and So Over My Head.  (Can't you just feel the diva aura radiating from those titles? LOL)

Summary (Goodreads):
Bella Kirkwood had it all-A-list friends, Broadway in her backyard, Daddy's credit card. Then her father decided to trade in her mother for a newer model. After that, her mom fell in love with a man she met on the Internet and moved the family to Truman, Oklahoma. To a farm no less! But that's just the beginning of Bella's problems. Her semi-pro-wrestler stepdad signs up the family for a reality TV show. As if having a camera crew follow her around isn't bad enough, Bella discovers a conspiracy against the Truman High prom queen candidates. And that's before the arrival of the Fritz Family Carnival with its creepy clown.Bella is one skinny-mocha frappe away from a total meltdown. How can a girl go on when her charmed life is gone and God appears to be giving her the total smack down?

I absolutely loved this series!  It was so much fun, especially with Bella's sassy voice narrating everything-and not to mention Luke. ;) (*swoon*)

I'm once again going to shoot for that brevity! I've decided to do this review in bullet form to see if that’ll help. ;)

Here goes!

1. Characters: Entertaining, lively, and full of joy and spunk ;) (most of 'em anyways).  I think the best way to describe Bella is that she's the teenager version of Junie B (if Junie B's parents were famous celebrities, that is).  She was an absolute delight to get to know, and her witty sass kept me laughing aloud throughout the series. Of course, Bella wasn’t all fun and games; she had issues that she had to deal with, like issues with her father and feelings of abandonment.  I felt Bella  represented the series as a whole: the funny (for the most part) balanced with the more serious (sometimes the humor overwhelmingly so- I’ll address that later).  Besides Bella dealing with her dad, we also had other side characters dealing with issues like being yourself, doubt, bullying, etc.

Ruthie was personally my favorite sidekick. (I'm def. doing a 
Sidekick Showcase on her this week!)  She doesn't seem like the brightest bulb (oh, but she IS), and her bumbling loyalty to Bella was so sweet!  I also loved how she wasn't the stereotypical "PK."  She dressed rebelliously (don't let that fool you! She was adorable!), and it seemed like she was, but her character was holy (not holier than thou, but she walked the talk, so to speak).   Budge as the bumbling/”partner in bickering” older brother (who happened to be a PERFECT match for another bumbling character) and Robbie, who was a precocious and precious little child, were great side characters also. I wish I could just gush and go and on about these characters and the amazing character development that happened to every one of them as the series progressed, but alas, that would take up this entire review.  So conclusion:  NO cardboards here- everyone had development, character, and growth.     

2. Plot:  Despite a few of the books having darker tones (one’s a murder mystery, and another has to do with a cult), the author balanced it pretty well with humor.  The books moved along relatively quick, and it was FUN.  That sounds weird, especially since one of them was a murder mystery, but the plot was fun and entertaining.  

3. Romance:  Of course, I can not not (lol double negatives) write a review without mentioning the romance! 2 words for ya: Luke Sullivan. SAH-WOON. I LOVED their relationship because: 

A)  No instalove!!!!!!!!!  A sure way to win my heart! ;) It took a while for the relationship to actually get going, and even then, there were a few rough spots. (“Relationship development”=anguish for reader-in a good way.)

B)   LUKE HAD A PERSONALITY. I KID YOU NOT. OMG. FINALLY A GUY WITH A PERSONALITY.  AND NOT JUST ANY KIND OF PERSONALITY EITHER.  He wasn’t exactly sweet, but he was a great steady rock for crazy (I say it with affection ;)!) Bella.  I loved all their interactions, especially their bickering. ;)  He was very respectable (and used common sense!), but by no means stuffy or boring.  He may come across as a little snooty in the beginning, but don’t let Bella fool ya. ;) And that kiss? (You’ll know which one!) *swoon!!!*

C)  Luke wasn’t just the romantic interest.  He was also one of her closest friends (even if he didn’t start off that way), and I really appreciated that that was how he was portrayed too.   Luke, with his steadiness and cute nerdiness, was first her friend and boyfriend second.  So many YA books these days just show the romantic interest as someone for “making-out” or just there as an "accessory" so that there would be a romance. A relationship, esp. romantic ones, is so much more than that. 

Final thoughts? This series was great and fun, but it did over do the humor sometimes.  Take There You’ll Find Me (same author), for example.  The humor and seriousness was nicely balanced, and when it came time to be serious, it was serious.  In this series, I felt a few of the scenes, esp. some scenes with her dad, were not as impactful as they could have been because of the somewhat excessive humor, like Bella was downplaying the whole thing.  I understood that was part of her coping/defensive mechanism, and I did love her sass and one-liners, but for those scenes (and a few others),  I felt it would be better to be more serious.  (That doesn't mean the entire book was like this- just a few places.  For the most part, I actually liked the humor balancing out the darker aspects, which made this book a lot more interesting and fun, imho, than traditional mysteries.)

Thanks for reading!
(P.S. Brevity has escaped me once more, but I shall push onwards! Someday I shall win! Huzzah!;)

Rating: 4 out of 5 

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