By the Book

By the Book

First Lines: Dear Diary, Here’s a secret I’ve never told anyone: Sometimes I pretend my life is happening inside a book. I’m the main character, and there’s a narrator following me around, describing everything.

It’s an incontrovertible truth that if there’s a book about someone who loves books, I’ll read it. This one certainly caught my eye, especially with that pun-tastic title. I mean, they’re pretty much ordering you to buy the book. And I think that’s hilarious.

Mary has read all the classics. She knows the Mistakes To Avoid Making when it comes to relationships. So when a new girl at school nearly ends up going out with a total rake, she jumps in to protect her. And as she does, she starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide of literary types to be avoided in the dating game. Unfortunately, Mary is much better at giving advice than she is at listening to her own. When that “total rake” turns out to maybe not be that bad, Mary discovers that if you want something, sometimes the books don’t have all the answers.

This was cute! Was it super deep or full of surprises? No, but it certainly had its fair share of charm.

The story is fairly simple: Mary comes from a very academic family (both parents are professors) and when she finally starts at public school instead of her experimental school, she’s a complete fish out of water. Friendless and alone, Mary overhears a conversation about a boy at school and immediately offers advice based on the guys she’s read about in the classics she loves to read. And from there, everything moves.

I thought Mary and her family were full of weird charm. They are so intelligent that they have conversations that no one else really understands, but they’re all weird and quirky. You can really feel that they do love each other, but that doesn’t mean they don’t fight or occasionally ignore each other. It felt very real. There were some conversations between family members that felt exactly like something my family would say.

The story definitely references a lot of different classics, some of which I (an English teacher) had never even heard of…but classics weren’t my specialty, so maybe that explains it. It does sometimes get a little annoying the way they constantly play that same vein over and over (“In this book….In this book…”) I mean, I liked that all the stuff was based on real books, but I just got a little tired of how it was presented sometimes.

I even thought the relationship was strangely fascinating and difference, which I wasn’t expecting considering the story spends the whole time insisting that relationships fit a formula and guys fit a “type”. It’s I guess something of an Elizabeth-and-Darcy thing, if we’re going to go with a classic, where the heroine doesn’t like the hero and slowly things change. But truly, it felt like its own kind of thing. Mary’s awkward and naive, while Alex is a bit more comfortable with relationships. You can see why Mary reaches the conclusions she does, but that doesn’t mean they’re accurate. It’s…interesting.

So yeah, this was cute. I really liked how quirky it was while still having a lot of heart.

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