{Review} #16ThingsIThoughtWereTrue by Janet Gurtler

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

1. Working in an amusement park should be amusing.

     AFTER PAUSING FOR A DEEP BREATH, I force myself to walk into the room with my head held high and my shoulders pulled back. I can totally do this, show people who I really am--not the girl they saw dancing on the video.

     I'm focusing so hard on keeping my cool that I trip over a chair and it clatters to the ground. Everyone in the staff break room stops talking and stares. They're all ewaring the same Tinkerpark T-shirts but in different colors. Red, blue, yellow, or green, we're all dressed as brightly as a package of Skittles. 

     "Awwwk-ward," someonen mumbles. I see a girl waving and, relieved, I wave back but realize she's not even waving at me, but at a guy standing behind me. An idiot blush heats my cheeks, even though a blink later the tension evaporates and people go back to whatever they were doing.
(pg. 13, US ARC edition)

This review was first posted at A Backwards Story on March 3, 2014. 
I still think it's an under-appreciated gem and hope you enjoy discovering it now! 

Contemporary YA isn't my cup of tea. #ThingsIThoughtWereTrue

Long-time readers know that I don't often find a contemporary YA novel that I fall head over heels for. I find books I enjoy reading, but none that I have to own or know I'll re-read. The only contemporary YA authors on my auto-buy list are Stephanie Perkins and Meg Cabot. Yet I already want to re-read #16ThingsIThoughtWereTrue by Janet Gurtler.  It resonated with me in a way that few contemporary novels do, and I know I'll be buying this and adding it to my collection.

Contemporary YA doesn't resonate with me. #ThingsIThoughtWereTrue

I'm not really sure what it was that resonated so much with me. Perhaps the fact that I related to so much that Morgan is going through. I get being that awkward girl, about doing embarrassing things that no one lets you forget. I get spending all your time online with your "real" friends because they get you more than anyone you've encountered in "real" life. I get spending your summer vacation working at the local theme park (I grew up crazy close to Sesame Place, the prime work environment for any high school student!). I get having something so horrible and devastating shatter you. I don't know. I just get Morgan. We'd be BFFs in real-life.

Unlikeable characters make it difficult to love a book. #ThingsIThoughtWereTrue

Morgan's a hard girl to like. She's shy and anti-social. She has almost five thousand Twitter followers, but very few "real-life" friends, especially after her former best friend Lexi destroyed their friendship by posting an embarrassing video of Morgan online that went viral. Now, everyone laughs at Morgan, and she wants nothing more but to disappear. She has a summer job at Tinkerpark, and thinks she knows what's in store for her this summer. When her mother winds up in the hospital, everything changes. Thinking she won't survive her surgery, Morgan's mom finally reveals the long-kept secret of Morgan's father's identity. Morgan and two of her Tinkerpark co-workers take a road trip to Canada to meet him and find out why he never wanted to be a part of Morgan's life. As Morgan's life falls apart around her, her newfound friendships hold her up and teach her that there's more to life than she's always believed.

If an author throws the kitchen sink and everything in the fridge into a book, it just isn't good. #ThingsIThoughtWereTrue

This book. This book.. There are so many feels. Morgan can be unlikeable at times. She's very judgmental. She makes snap decisions about her co-workers Amy and Adam, but both are there for her when she really needs them. Adam and Morgan begin to bond when Morgan's mother is in the hospital, and Amy offers to drive the three of them to Canada on a road trip. Amy quickly becomes Morgan's best friend, and Adam soon becomes something more. There is so much going on in this novel. Road trips. Family drama. Illness. So much that it's spoilery to go too into detail. You'd think it would be too much. I usually get annoyed when a book adds too much and gets too twisty late into the game (Which I complained about last week in my review of BE WITH ME by Jennifer Armentrout). But #16ThingsIThoughtWereTrue never felt long or overdone or boring. In fact, when I had to put it down and work, I was upset, because I was so invested in what was going on that I wanted to just keep reading! It's also very timely, focusing on social media powerhorse Twitter (heck, the book's title is a hashtag!) over the fading popularity of Facebook. It also explores the power of viral videos and the way it impacts the people who "star" in them. Teens share way too much online these days, and there can be repercussions. Gurtler portrays this well without coming off preachy!

Earlier, I said I didn't know what resonated with me about this book. This paragraph disproves that thought. #ThingsIThoughtWereTrue

Last year, when Gurtler published HOW I LOST YOU, she depicted the way a life-long friendship can fall apart. Somewhere (I forget where, perhaps an interview or a note in the book), she discussed how she was inspired by the way one of her own friendships unraveled. This theme continues in #16ThingsIThoughtWereTrue. When Lexi betrays Morgan by posting an embarrassing video online, it destroys their friendship. Morgan has to decide whether or not she can forgive the best friend she grew up with. She also gets a tough lesson on friendship through her relationships with Amy and Adam. Morgan learns so much on friendship in #16ThingsIThoughtWereTrue, on what it is to be a friend and love unconditionally. I truly think this is the emotional core of the story that impacted me so fiercely and made me love it so hard. We learn to adore Amy and her lack of a filter right alongside Morgan, and we love Adam little by little with her as she digs beneath his facade and discovers him. (And the romance!! Well! Some good scenes here, bookworms!)

I'm still not ready to read books with certain emotional punches and embrace/love them. #ThingsIThoughtWereTrue

To me, a good contemporary novel lasts long after the last page is turned. I'm still thinking about the book, about the characters. If it can make me emotional and misty, it gets an extra gold star. The characters in #16ThingsIThoughtWereTrue resonate and are memorable. I think they'll appeal to many, many readers. I know that saying this has become the "thing to say," but I honestly would especially recommend this to fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell. But especially John Green, and in ways you may not expect going into the novel. I also think it would appeal to fans of Marni Bates' AWKWARD (and likewise, if you read this first, you may enjoy AWKWARD!).

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I guess she's outside of the hospital in this photo? I don't really get this cover, personally.

The model doesn't look too upset. She's thinking, but she's slightly smiling. And it looks cold! It would have been fun to see a model in theme park garb emotionally distraught, or an image of friendship. I also miss the sleek "titles in bubbles" from every other book by Gurtler.

I get that the style might not work if you want to be awesome and hashtag your title, but still...nothing about this cover grabs me, which is a shame, because it's such a good book.

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

I don't remember because I read this back in 2014, but I would say it's likely 15+ because Gurtler's books can have language and sexual innuendo in them.
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Title: #16ThingsIThoughtWereTrue
Author: Janet Gurtler
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Received: For Review

Heart attacks happen to other people #thingsIthoughtweretrue

When Morgan's mom gets sick, it's hard not to panic. Without her mother, she would have no one—until she finds out the dad who walked out on her as a baby isn't as far away as she thought...

Adam is a stuck-up, uptight jerk #thingsIthoughtweretrue

Now that they have a summer job together, Morgan's getting to know the real Adam, and he's actually pretty sweet...in a nerdy-hot kind of way. He even offers to go with her to find her dad. Road trip, anyone?

5000 Twitter followers are all the friends I need #thingsIthoughtweretrue

With Adam in the back seat, a hyper chatterbox named Amy behind the wheel, and plenty of Cheetos to fuel their trip, Morgan feels ready for anything. She's not expecting a flat tire, a missed ferry, a fake girlfriend...and that these two people she barely knew before the summer started will become the people she can't imagine living without.