The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the author
Summary (from Goodreads):
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.
And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with, if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?
What I Liked:
This book is quite different from this author's historical fiction series, The Secrets of the Eternal Rose. Overall, I really enjoyed that series, though I had a rocky start, with Venom. I highly recommend that series, especially to fans of historical fiction, like me. Anyway. I was thrilled to see that this author had a different novel coming out in 2014, even if it is a contemporary novel (in which we all know I'm not a fan of contemporary novels). I knew I would be reading this book, regardless of my genre preferences. I'm really pleased with how much I liked this book!
Lainey is super excited for her senior year of high school, because everything seems perfect - boyfriend, soccer, grades, friends, LIFE. But then Jason dumps her in her parents' coffee shop in front of everyone, and Lainey is crushed. There goes her perfect senior year. But she and her friend Bianca come up with a plan based on The Art of War, to get Jason back. Lainey will fake-date Micah, a boy who works at her parents' shop, in order to make Jason jealous. But that plan backfires a little, because Lainey totally falls for Micah. Confused? Yes, she is.
I absolutely LOVE how much of an influence The Art of War has over this book. The text is quite interesting, so applying it to relationships and ex-boyfriends is really cool. Don't worry if you're not familiar with the text - Stokes makes it very easy for readers to comfortably understand The Art of War and how Lainey uses it to try to get Jason back. The influence of such a novel makes this book seem so much more intelligent and clever, and I love it.
I thought I would dislike the love story, to be honest, because for one, it sounds like there is a love triangle present in this book. Also, it's kind of a cliche relationship, right? Use a boy to make another boy jealous, only to fall in love with the boy you're using. But both of these aspects were sort of avoided in this book, or at least, they didn't bother me. I can't really explain how Stokes does it, but she circumvents the love triangle bit really well, making it clear to readers that there really is only male for Lainey, and that Lainey is the only one for that male. Also, while the skeleton of the relationships in this book seems cliche (how Lainey uses one boy to make another jealous, but falls in love with the other), the specifics of the romance really weren't cliche at all. It was interesting to see how the characters influenced the development of the relationship - I think that made a huge difference.
Lainey is a unique character, though I can't say I would like her in real life. She starts off in this book as really shallow, and honestly, she stills seems a little shallow by the end, but not as much. Her character changes enormously from cover to cover, and I like this change. She finds herself, learns host to survive with Jason, how to be herself without Jason. That is something that doesn't just happen overnight, because she was with Jason for more than two years. That's a long time to get comfortable with being the person that he wants you to be, especially since you're still developing your personality (if you know what I'm saying).
Micah isn't what I expected him to be. I like his "bad" aspect - although I could never really get a feel of how old he is. I think he goes to the same school as Lainey, which would make him the same age? But he always struck me as a college-age guy. Either way, there is so much more to him than tattoos and piercings and rumors, and I like him. I know for a fact that we would be friends in real life, judging his personality.
Hats off to Stokes for choosing soccer to be a THING in this book - a huge thing. If you're a Twitter follower, then you know how much I enjoy my sports, especially football (Hala Madrid!), so I thought it was great that Stokes featured the sport in this book, and made it such a huge part of the book. Soccer is Lainey's life, it seems, or a very large part (for the most of the book, it seems like Jason is Lainey's life). I have a friend here that sees soccer in the same light - soccer is his life. Without it, he's not HIM. It would kill him if he had to stop playing, if someone took it away from him, if he couldn't even practice. I love that passion, and I'm happy to see it in this book.
This story is pretty awesome, if you ask me. Lainey follows The Art of War to get Jason back, but she ends up discovering herself and her own love life. This book isn't just focused on the romance, though it might seem that way. There is more going on, with friendships and soccer and a teenager's future. Stokes hits a lot of issues that teenagers face, in a way that isn't too morbid or depressing. In fact, the mood of this book is very light and almost silly, despite the fact that it follows a break-up.
If you couldn't tell by now, I really liked this book! I'm really happy that I had the chance to read this book (thank you, Paula!), and I'm definitely excited to read this author's books in the future.
What I Did Not Like:
I think the only thing that bothered me at all was that it took a while for me to get into this book. The first part of this book was a bit difficult for me to read, for some reason. I wasn't entirely sucked into the story. Of course, we need to remember that I'm not a huge fan of contemporary (or contemporary romance) novels, so this could just be a "me" thing. But personally, I thought the first third ish of the book was a little boring, or slow, perhaps.
Would I Recommend It:
If you're a fan of contemporary novels, you'll definitely want to check out this book! And even if you're not, this is still one that I think anyone can enjoy. I'm not a contemporary fan, although I do enjoy a contemporary romance novel every now and then, so I was really happy when I ended up really liking this book overall. So, contemporary fan or not, this is a book that I think anyone can like, if they give it a try!
4 stars. I'm four for four with Paula/Fiona's books! I think I prefer her contemporary novels, but of course, I've only read one of her contemporary novels. I'll definitely be catching Liars, Inc., when it comes out next year!
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