Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.
The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.
What I Liked:
YA contemporary really isn't my thing, but I've read all of Emma Mills' books and I've enjoyed them. I read First & Then and This Adventure Ends and both books were so wonderful. Foolish Hearts certainly does not disappoint. With Mills's trademark humor and relatable characters and situations, Foolish Hearts solidifies this author's place as a queen of YA contemporary
Claudia likes things the way they are, with her life at her prep school, her best friend in the local public school, her brother taking community college classes, her sister living in another state with her husband. Life seems to be just fine, and Claudia doesn't really care for change, so this works for her. But things start to fall out of place the day Claudia overhears Paige Breckner break up with Iris Huang. These two made up the school's power couple, so when Paige breaks up with Iris, Iris doesn't want anyone to know what went down. Iris isn't exactly nice, and most people are afraid of her. When Claudia and Iris are forced to be partners for a Lit assignment, Claudia realizes that Iris isn't all bad. They try out for the school play, where Claudia makes friends with Gideon, a goofy and charismatic boy at the neighboring all-boys prep school, a guy who everyone likes and likes everyone. Life is changing for Claudia, and she realizes that it isn't all bad.
I knew I was going to read this book without even reading the synopsis. I'm not a huge fan of YA contemporary but at this point, I trust Emma Mills. So when I finally read the synopsis (last night), and then started reading the book, I started to feel a little apprehensive. Did I want to read a book dealing with girl drama? Not really. With Iris being furious at Claudia for overhearing the breakup, I figured this book would be rife with girl drama. But thankfully, that wasn't the case!
The book starts with that (Paige and Iris's breakup), but that isn't the whole point of the book, or the big issue, or anything like that. Iris and Claudia slowly become friends, after they are forced to be partners for a Lit assignment. This is a hilarious slow-burn friendship, because Iris is so stiff and unapproachable, and she doesn't like anybody. Which is fair, because most people don't like her. But Mills is so good at character development - Iris isn't a one-dimensional mean girl. In fact, as the story goes on, I realized that Iris isn't a mean girl at all. She isn't great with emotions and hashing things out, but she is a person I could empathize with. As she and Claudia hang out more, they develop a solid friendship.
Claudia is somewhat of a go-with-the-flow type of person, but she also hates change. She has a great sense of humor laced with a lot of sarcasm, and I thought she was hilarious. She might seem a little bland at first, but it's hard not to adore her as you get to know her. I could relate to her a lot. I loved how she honest and straightforward she was.
There are many positive friendships in this book, besides Claudia and Iris's friendship. Claudia has always been best friends with Zoe, since preschool. Though they go to different schools, they have remained very close friends. They go through a lot in this book, some pretty big obstacles, but their friendship comes out strong in spite of everything. I also liked Claudia good relationship with her parents (who are not crazy YA parents or absent YA parents).
One of the things that I loved about this book was how family dynamics were such an important part of it. Claudia's parents are so cool and "normal" - they aren't crazy or absent or too lenient. Claudia and her brother Alex are close, especially being one year apart. Claudia's older sister Julia is eleven years older and living three hours away, but Claudia and her sister have a good relationship. Julia is pregnant and she isn't super excited about it. She's scared and unsure. I loved this; everyone acts like a newly pregnant woman is supposed to be excited and happy and whatnot - and it's a crime if you're not. I disagree. It should be socially "okay" for a woman to be scared or a little less enthusiastic. Julia doesn't think she can do the mom thing, and this is a legitimate thing to worry about. Being a mom is a huge step and totally new to a first-time mom. I love how this is something that is addressed in this book. Being a mother isn't a box to check off on a to-do list.
Secondary characters who were wholly developed, wonderful, and a delight to read -- Gideon (the sweet, goofy, charismatic boy who is loved by everyone), Noah (Gideon's friend/brother since they were very young), Iris (of course), Zoe (of course), Del and Caris (working in costumes alongside Claudia, for the play. There are so many secondary characters in this book, and I love that so many were positive "good" characters.
The romance was so so so so so so slow-burn, but in a realistic and very cute way. It reminded me of a crush I had, when I was slowly falling for him. Gideon is a charismatic guy that likes everyone, and everyone likes him. He is the kind of guy to pick up new interests all the time, and for that reason, Claudia doesn't want to like like him. But she does, and she can't stop it. Especially since it's clear that he likes likes her. They are the cutest! She is a sarcastic Shakespeare wiz, and he is an adorably goofy jokester. He's not a d-bag kind of charismatic boy, which made me like him even more. He is sweet and very considerate, and definitely a guy I would want to date (though they were so rare, especially in high school).
All of the parts of the story come together in the climax, which involved Paige and Iris, Gideon and Claudia, Julia and her pregnancy, Claudia and a conflict with Zoe... there is a lot going on by the end of the book, and a lot for Claudia to take in. This story isn't about her making it through senior year or getting ready to go to college - but it is about her growing into a more mature and well-rounded person. I liked this book a lot and I will be rereading it in the near future!
What I Did Not Like:
I feel like I always want more kissing, in Mills's books! It's always towards the end and only very briefly. Her books have such potential to be so physically swoony! I love the slow-burn non-swoony swoony tension though. But I wouldn't mind more!
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend any of Mills's books, not just this one. This one is a lovely and enjoyable story, a quick read that will make you smile. I wouldn't necessarily call it "fluffy" YA contemporary, because of the range of topics and emotions induced, but it's not a tough-issue YA contemporary novel. It's one that is delightful and sweet but also deals with real-life issues (like navigating friendships and anticipating motherhood - in Julia's case). You don't have to be a YA contemporary fan to fall in love with Mills's stories!
4 stars. There is a reason Mills keeps me coming back - or maybe many reasons. Her novels have been wonderful so far. Foolish Hearts is yet another masterpiece that adds to Mills's stellar reputation as a pillar in YA contemporary. I will forever be looking for new books by her, no matter the genre!
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