I can’t remember if I’ve talked much about my time at Borders or not…have I mentioned that I worked there for ten years? I loved it, too. I was part-time, then full-time for quite a while, and then part-time again, and I still get melancholy about its demise. I’m not saying it wasn’t brought about by some poor business decisions, mind you–I’m just saying that the world lost a good thing when it died. Anyway, during the course of that ten years, I brought home quite a few freebies. I have a killer Christmas cd collection (this is what happens when you’re pretty much the only member of the staff who loves Christmas music so much she doesn’t get sick of it when it’s in the overhead 24-7), my food storage is displayed rather neatly on surplus bookshelves, and I have a box of book promos that filled my husband with dismay when we were cleaning out the room my girlies are now sharing. He was thinking I’d be okay to get rid of most of them; the problem with that is that I brought them home because they looked like books I’d be interested in reading. On the bright side, I don’t necessarily feel the need to keep them once I’ve read them, and so I’ve been working Borders promos into my fourth book decisions when I can.
Enter How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. I don’t read a ton of adult fiction, but the title and plot of this one caught my eye. Opal is a senior in high school with an unparalleled academic record (complete with activities–like welding–to make her well-rounded) and her eye (and heart) set on getting into Harvard. During her early acceptance interview, however, the Dean of Admissions sets aside her achievements for a moment and asks her some unanswerable questions, like ‘what do you do for fun?’ and ‘tell me about your friends.’ Her parents, who love detailed plans with acronyms, respond by coming up with HOWGAL–How Opal Will Get A Life–and thus begins Opal’s roller coaster senior year. The ups and downs are slightly predictable, but the ending is satisfying, and Opal is a likable heroine. The writing has faults (it’s a first novel), but I appreciate its refusal to dwell overlong on the bumpiest parts of the ride, and it made me laugh quite a lot. I grew up on the east coast and I was part of the academic crowd (insofar as a school as small as mine had “crowds”–the lines are pretty fuzzy when there are only 84 seniors in your class). The Ivy League was a big deal there, and while my school of choice was not Ivy League, I did want rather desperately to get in. I could thus relate to Opal quite a bit, although I was never clueless in the same areas she was. (I was also never as smart.)
If you can’t relate to any major plot points in this one, it’s not so all-encompassingly amazing that you need to run out and read it anyway; on the other hand, if something in the description strikes a chord, it’s worth the read. It’s a little fluffy, maybe, but it’s funny and unexpected. Who doesn’t need that from time to time?