Friday, May 2, 2014

Title: The Art of Lainey
Author: Paula Stokes
Series: n/a
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Source: from publisher via Edelweiss
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is used to getting what she wants, and when her boyfriend Jason breaks up with her for no reason, what she wants is to win him back before the start of their senior year. Lainey and her friend Bianca check the interwebz for tips and tricks, but the online dating advice is all pretty lame.

Then the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. Didn't someone once say that love is a battlefield? Jason isn't going to stand a chance once Lainey and Bee go all Zhou Dynasty on him...

Old school strategy and subterfuge meet modern-day dramarama in the story of a girl who sets out to win at all costs and ends up discovering what's really worth fighting for.



Funny story...I was in a bookstore the other day and they have these gorgeous leatherbound editions of classic books, and I sort of have a collection of them going, so I decided to peruse their selection. Lo and behold, what should I come across but The Art of War? I'd already read The Art of Lainey at this point, so I almost picked it up for that reason alone. I mean, you never know when something like that might come in handy, right? But honestly, I'd rather read about girls using this book of strategy and war tactics for winning back -- or getting back at -- their ex...it's way more fun. No, this isn't the first time I've seen The Art of War used in a story in this way, but it is by far my favorite. While Lainey and Bee's plan to win back Jason starts out juvenile enough, the book delves deeper into Lainey's psyche as she discovers that what she thought she needed may not be what she wants after all.

I'm just going to say it: I loved this book. I knew it was going to be cute, and I knew I was going to like it because I'd liked the author's previous work (under her pseudonym), but I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy this story. If you're going to use a romance trope, you can't go wrong with the fake boyfriend scenario in my book. It makes the love triangle aspect worth it, and I love seeing how it plays out: who falls for who, what lengths someone will go to to be seen by another character, how it changes people's perceptions. It's all in good fun...until someone gets hurt.

And there is plenty of heartbreak in this story. But Lainey isn't your typical weeping willow protagonist. She's strong (physically and mentally), capable, and fairly aggressive in her attempt to win back the love of her life. Break-ups are hard, but Lainey doesn't take hers lying down, even if the way in which Jason broke up with her was more than a little callous. We see from the get-go that this guy probably isn't worth the effort, but at that age and at that stage of heartbreak, it's difficult to see something like that on your own.

Good thing Lainey has an awesome support system. Lainey's brother Steve who is studying abroad for the summer isn't even physically present in the novel, but through emails and texts, he is a great sounding board for his wayward sister. I liked that Lainey's mother was open and honest with her, that she felt like my idea of a real mom -- one who means well but tries a little too hard to be the "cool" mom. Lainey's family owns the coffee shop that she, Bee, Micah, and Leo all work at, and I appreciated the fact that although Lainey's father was a little timid when it came to the kitchen staff at the shop, he didn't discount that they were hard workers or good people, just because of the way they looked or dressed. A lot of the characters seem outwardly stereotypical, but they are far from being what you'd expect, making some of them favorites of mine.

And that includes Micah and Bee, but I'll get to Micah in a minute. Strong female bonds that don't completely revolve around boys are hard to come by in young adult novels these days. And though a lot of time is spent discussing Lainey's plan to win back her ex, Lainey and Bee do talk about other interests and focus on their friendship in the meantime. They discuss college choices, what the next year and after will bring for their friendship, and they build each other up but are also honest with each other. At first, I was afraid that their friendship was a little too perfect, meaning a betrayal was surely on the horizon, but Stokes is boss at creating a realistic, lasting friendship. Looking back on Lainey and Bianca's friendship, you can see that it has it's ups and downs, that there are periods where Lainey is lonely, where Bee is out doing her thing and Lainey is missing her ex, but you're also witness to the not-quite-jealousy that Bee feels toward Kendall, the friend that essentially elevated Lainey's status at school and stole her away from her childhood friend. While Jason's out of the picture and Kendall is away all summer, the girls reaffirm their friendship, proving that some bonds are just impossible to break.

Micah, with his strokable mohawk, isn't your typical love interest. He's not even the typical "bad boy" character. Because he's actually a really sweet, caring guy. He and Lainey were actually childhood friends, as well, until something tragic happened to his family and he pushed everyone away. He was probably always destined to rock the mohawk based on his family background, but tragedy probably made him the deeper, more soulful person he appears to be in the story. And I liked that, I liked those hidden depths, especially as we see them unearthed by Lainey as their friendship/relationship evolves.

When Micah and Lainey first strike their deal to win back their exes, they're not really even friends. Neither is particularly fond of the other, but that's because they don't know each other anymore and are going off the perception they have of each other. As they spend more time together on their fake dates, they begin to see what they'd been missing, but they're also each changing themselves and each other. Micah makes Lainey question everything she'd thought about herself: who she is, what defines her, who she wants to be. They force each other to step outside of their comfort zones on these fake dates and they find themselves having a lot of fun with each other while doing so. They were on even footing in this way, at least until feelings got in the way and complicated everything.

The Art of Lainey may have started out with a simple win-the-ex-back plot, but it quickly developed into a story of self-discovery, full of character growth and realistic portrayals of teenagers and heartbreak, and it grew into a story that was so much deeper and thought-provoking than I had expected. I am in complete adoration of the characters Paula Stokes has created from her own story of heartbreak, even the ones that don't deserve my affection, because they were all so genuine and they all had their layers and issues to work through. This is the novel that young women need to read: to experience Lainey's determination, to be inspired by a friendship that stands the test of time, to realize that they are not alone in their heartbreak and that it does get better, and to open their eyes to possibilities and not limit themselves. This was such an incredible novel, and I can't wait to read more from this author. Especially more of Micah's story in Infinite Repeat! #YayMicah

GIF it to me straight:

And to that Micah novella:
I can't flipping wait!!!!!!!!!


About the author:

Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She started out writing historical fiction under a pen name and is now branching out into other YA genres.

When she's not working (rare), she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She's petted tigers, snuggled snakes, snorkeled with stingrays, and once enjoyed the suction-cuppy feel of a baby elephant's trunk as it ate peanuts from her palm. Her future goals include diving with Great White sharks, learning Krav Maga, and writing a whole slew of novels, not necessarily in that order.

Find Paula:

Website | TwitterFacebookGoodreads




Thanks to the generous Paula Stokes, I have a giveaway for The Art of Lainey for you guys!!! And she's being super awesome and making it international!! Here's the deal: if you're in the US, she'll send you a signed copy of her book, and if you're outside of the US, she'll order a copy of the novel for you from The Book Depository and send you a signed bookplate. How sweet is that?!?

Rules:
  • This giveaway is international. As long as The Book Depository ships to your location, you are good to go. You can check that here.
  • One entry per household. 
  • Entries will be verified. Any entry found to be falsified will result in disqualification of all entries for that participant. 
  • Winner will be notified via email. Winner will then have 48 hours to respond before another winner will be selected. Please check your SPAM folder!!! 
  • We are not responsible for lost packages. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out this incredibly funny and sweet new contemporary novel from Paula Stokes! Good luck & happy reading!


48 comments:

  1. Bah, I didn't request this one because contemp and all but I now I want to read it since you loved it so much...so thank you for the giveaway chance!

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    1. I used to skip over the contemps without a second look, but now some of them are favorites, right up there with the fantasy novels I love. I think you'd probably enjoy this one, too, Kristen, because it's not completely over-the-top or angst-ridden and the characters are just real.

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  2. Replies
    1. Yay! I don't think I've seen anyone who hasn't loved it, though, to be honest. It's definitely earned a place on my favorites list!

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  3. this looks and sounds awesome :) Thanks for sharing! There have been no exes that I've ever tried to win back or want back!

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    1. Yeah, I don't actually think I've ever wanted one of mine back, either. They're exes for a reason, ya know? But I have been pursued by an ex, and that is awkward, lemme tell ya. Glad that you've never had to deal with it, though, lucky girl!

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  4. I wasn't really sure if I wanted to read this one but I think now I've been convinced! Sounds really cute! As for ex experiences, I've been pretty lucky in that I haven't had any terrible ones but it always sucks to realize they've started dating someone else less than a month after they ended your two year relationship. Oh well! C'est la vie!

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    1. That is pretty bad but still better than finding out they were dating someone new BEFORE you ended things. Has happened to me more than once. :( But like you said, that's life, and there are plenty more fish in the sea. :)

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  5. I'm reading this next! Yayyyy, I can't wait!!!! :)

    My first ever breakup was when I was 10. My "boyfriend" broke up with me by poem. The poem was, ahhem, (yes, I still remember this after 20 years...)

    Roses are red
    Violets are black
    You would look good with a knife in your back

    Um yeah, I was pretty shocked. Apparently his friend wrote it for him, and he felt badly about it afterwards. I got over it pretty quickly... But I never forgot it. 0_0

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    1. I'm trying not to respond to blog reviews so I don't scare off any poster who wants to comment that they didn't like my book (it's fine, not everyone will like it, I'm cool with that ;-D)

      But OMFG. No. He. Didn't.
      O_O
      D:
      o_O

      Also, isn't it funny how times have changed and if someone did that now he'd probably be kicked out of school and arrested for assault and sent to mandatory psych counseling? Kids. *shakes head in disbelief*

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    2. I have complete faith that you will LOVE this book, Lisa! :0) But that is the craziest break-up story...funny, but still, WOW. And I can see why you still remember that poem! Lol.

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    3. Paula, I don't think you have anything to worry about, seriously. :) And look how many we've already convinced to give the book a chance! Yay!!! =D

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    4. Yay! I just know some people feel weird about commenting if they know the author is lurking about. (Of course, if you know me at all you, know I am always lurking about :-D)

      Thanks so much for your review, Jen! :-)

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  6. I had to break up with my boyfirned who was my best friend's brother. Didn't end well!

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    1. Yuck...it's probably never a good idea to date someone related to someone else you're going to see all the time, but you can't help who you fall for, right? Thanks for sharing!

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  7. I really want to read this book :)
    And,now,there are no ex which I've tried to win back or want back :D
    Thanks for the awesome giveaway :)

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    1. Yay! And lucky you with no terrible ex stories! :D

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  8. This sounds soooo amazing and I really want to try it! I'd seen it around a bit, but hadn't really thought about it much. But 5-stars?! I NEED THIS BOOK IN MY LIFE OBVIOUSLY. My worst breakup was with my computer. It stopped loving me. But the sorrow was brief because I replaced it and have never looked back. We are never ever getting back together, let's just put it that way.

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    1. You totally need this book, Cait! It was soooo great! And I love your breakup story, too. You never fail to make me laugh! =)

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  9. I don't think I went through any horrible breakup - not even when I was actually devastated by it (considering that he was breaking my heart, the guy was really 'nice' about it - if that can ever be the case).
    But I did try to break up with someone by SMS (hides in shame).. It's funny because it didn't work the way I wanted, as he didn't get the memo, LOL!

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    1. I totally think amicable breakups are possible...I just don't think I've ever gone through one, lol. Bahaha, that's terrible, but funny, too!

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  10. My worst breakup was when the guy I was sooo in love with broke up with me by letter while he was overseas in the Navy!!!

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  11. I don't think I've really had a bad break up... mainly because that would infer that I'd had a serious relationship! However TWO guys I dated in high school - yes two - have now come out as gay... so I haven't thought to win them back haha!

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    1. :-/ Eeek. I don't think I'd plan on winning them back either, hehe. :)

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    2. haha yeah, it wouldn't be the greatest idea. ;)

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    1. Hehe, right? I love that excited baby.

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  13. How about finding out from a mutual friend that he was getting married the next day and somehow forgot to tell you when you'd been on and off for about three years?! I wasn't even aware we were off at the time.

    Needless to say, I did not try to win him back.

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    1. Oh, I have been in on and off for years land and it is not a good place :-( Here's hoping this guy finally set you free to find someone who wants a real relationship.

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    2. Yikes! I mean, how does one do that to someone?!? Well, at least now you know where you stood and are free to move on. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. I can't wait to read this! It sounds lovely!

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    1. It really is! I hope you get the chance to read it soon!

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  15. I don't have a break-up story because I never had a boyfriend. :P

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    1. There's plenty of time for that. :) And hopefully you never have a truly horrible breakup story, though.

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  16. I'm finally reading this now!! So glad you enjoyed it. I've been extremely excited to start it.

    I don't really have any break up stories. I feel lame that I don't. lol

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    1. I LOVED it, Sara...so freaking cute. I just loved that Micah! :D And don't feel lame that you don't have any crazy breakup stories...just means you know how to pick 'em better. =)

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  17. I was dating this guy and he was AWFUL. I'm not sure why even agreed to keep seeing him. Anyway, after he asked to borrow money from me and only returned it because "his dad told him to" (EXACTLY what he said to me), I couldn't take it anymore. The only problem was that I worked with him so it was so awkward until I decided to quit. Ugh. :|

    Anyway, I LOVED The Art of Lainey so a signed copy sounds like pure heaven! :)

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    1. Ugh. That does sound awful. I worked with a guy I was dating before. Actually, I got him the job after we started dating, then I broke up with him, and he quit because he said it was too awkward, making me look bad at work for getting him hired in the first place. My fault, I guess.

      Glad you loved The Art of Lainey, too! I wish my copy was signed, lol.

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  18. It just occurred to me (I'm slow) that I should tell you guys my own breakup stories! WELL. The first one is when I was 16. I was dating this boy at Denny's where I worked as a hostess and had just gotten promoted to "trainer." It all cute and perfect (except for the green ruffly outfit I had to wear.)

    Then we hired this girl who was 18 and I had to train her. Then I found out she was making more money than me for the same position. Then my boyfriend quit talking to me and I saw him kissing HER in the parking lot...and I still had to train her! So then I was really sad and one of the other bus boys caught me a stray kitten in the parking lot to make me feel better. SO SWEET! But then I waited until my manager ducked out to go to the bank to bring the kitten into the restaurant to show everyone. And yeah, some of the customers didn't like that. So then I got FIRED like 2 days after I got promoted D:

    But then I got a better job and a better boyfriend :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your breakup story, Paula! What a bummer of a story, though. I was kinda hoping the kitten-wielding bus boy ended up being your one true love or something, but that's not really how life works, is it? Glad you found a better job and a better boyfriend, though!

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  19. I have yet to go on a date, so my worst break-up story it TBD

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    1. Ah, well, hopefully it'll be on the funnier side and less horrific. :)

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  20. I don't have any break up story because I never have a boyfriend. I just hope I don't experience any bad break-ups. :)

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    1. Let's hope so, but you do (or should) learn from them, even if they suck while you're going through them. :)

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  21. Loved this one too! A Micah novel? So excited!!!

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