book review · shanti

The Best Possible Answer, but nothing new

Sometimes you want a book about people who’ve messed up, and The Best Possible Answer sounded like that book to me. It’s not a bad book. It’s not even trying to be a light book. It’s about Viviana, whose parents pressure her to do well. When she messes up, by sending a nude picture to her boyfriend which he doesn’t keep private, she feels very guilty and angry at herself. But that’s over now. It’s summer. She’s going to keep working towards her goal of being an engineer, and see her sister and mum and friends, and maybe her dad will come back? There are lots of thing I liked about this story, and a few problems also.
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What I liked
-The friendship element. I really liked Sammie, Viv’s friend. She was a good friend to Viviana, and they had a realistically flawed relationship, but still supported each other. She also had her own things going on, like the interest in fashion, so she wasn’t just a prop to Viviana’s character development.
-Viviana herself. She’s a ‘nice’ character, and very easy to root for. She’s quite similar to Taylor from The Way to Game the Walk of Shame, because she cares about her reputation, has daddy issues, wants to go into a typical money making career like her father (lawyer, engineer etc.), and has a love interest called Evan. I liked her character development and how she grew in confidence across the course of the story, and learned to question the people around her and embrace uncertainty and all that. Her anxiety/panic attacks were also woven well into the story. She’s a bit confused about life, but passionate, mostly kind if somewhat self-centred, and it’s really quite easy to see yourself in her.
-Evan. He was a great love interest, thoughtful, surprising, gentle, generally enjoyable to read about.
-The nuanced relationships. No relationship is simple in this story, but I quite like it that way, because that was realistic and interesting and made me question the characters, and generally just made the story interesting.
-The quirkiness. There are lots of funny, surprising little scenes, like the tomatoes being thrown, or the Chihuahua, or the extreme Ping-Pong. (you’ll have to read it to discover these scenes)
-The college entrance tips. Tbh, these did not make me feel great, because I’m in the midst of applying to university, and these made me realise that I had done everything wrong and have no chance of getting in, but they did add to the story.
-The setting. So many YA contemporaries are set either in New York, on a road trip, or in a medium sized, unnamed town I like to call ‘Generica’, because it’s generic America, probably-East-Coast-but-could-be-California-slightly-diverse and generally as bland as stewed cardboard. But The Best Possible Answer was set, quite vividly, in central Chicago at an apartment complex, not at some nowhere suburb, which really brought the setting to life.
What I didn’t like
I have a couple of quibbles with The Best Possible Answer. There were some really stupid, excessively dramatic scenes that were quite clichéd. I didn’t like that a boy got between the best friends. I thought the whole revelation about the father was a bit unlikely. I’m sure that happens, but it must be very rare, right? The confrontation with Gabe felt forced and unnecessary. But my main issue isn’t any of these. My main issue is that this is a short book, and as you can tell from the list above, a LOT is going on. As a result, nothing felt fully developed. Either one of these elements that I liked should have been taken out, or the book should have been longer. We’re wrenched from kissing scene to dramatic storm scene to staying in another apartment, and as a result that indefinable quality known as ‘flow’ is lost.
Are you in the mood for a ‘smart girl redeems herself, grows in friendship, discovers stuff about her family, all in one life changing summer’ book? Then The Best Possible Answer is the book for you. But if you want something original, or just something that fits together really well, you could give it a miss.

What’s a contemporary storyline you’re sick of? And have you read this one? Tell me in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “The Best Possible Answer, but nothing new

  1. This sounds like just what I need! I really wanted this from Paula Stokes’ new book This is How it Happened, but sadly, that ended up being a bit of a disappointment. I’m hoping that the friendship and growth elements will really come through in this one, and the subject of college entrance/applications is always cool to see taken seriously in books 🙂 Even though you didn’t absolutely love it, I’ll check it out 😀

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  2. Lovely review, Shanti! I really like how you enjoyed the relationships in that one, especially how there is a complicated friendship, but a friendship indeed. I’m a bit sick of all the girl hate in some contemporaries. It sounds like a sweet, summery book, I’m just sorry to hear there wasn’t as much development as you would have liked it to be :/

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    1. Thanks Marie! Yeah, the relationships were interesting. There was hate, but I really like it that they got past it because sometimes it seems that one argument= end of friend ship. Some of the stuff just seemed improbably though.

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