Sorry about the caps. I get excited about this book.
The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she fell head over heels in love with his beautiful blue eyes. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he fell in love with staying away from the over-enthusiastic, way-too-intelligent girl. And even though his mother tries to convince him otherwise, Bryce wants nothing to do with Juli. After all, what self-respecting seven-year-old wants to play soccer with a girl?
So Juli spends her elementary and middle-school years not-so-secretly in love with Bryce; Bryce spends his elementary and middle-school years not-so-secretly terrified of Juli. But somewhere in eighth grade, things change.
For Juli, she falls out of love with Bryce. For Bryce... well, maybe he's not in love with her, but he's curious. So what happens when things get flipped?
I love this book. It's hilarious, real, and well-written. And I liked the 'couple,' though whether eighth-graders can be considered a couple is questionable. They were amazing - together and apart. I was cheering for them all the way, maybe because I understood them both - Van Draanen writes the same event for each character in their own chapter, letting the reader see both sides of the story.
Juli is one of those girls I generally despise, especially as a love interest - manically cheerful, very intelligent, and 'thoughtful.' These usually turn out to be Mary Sues. And while Juli sometimes felt a bit Sueish, she was never unlikable. She had her failings. Bryce, on the other hand, had plenty of faults, yet managed to be completely adorable. As a quieter person, I totally understood why Juli freaked him out.
The Baker family and the Loski family were polar opposites, yet both believable. Both had their pros and cons. Sometimes it was painful to read about both of them. But - and here I have to commend Van Draanen - I loved how open Juli was about her love for her parents. And they were great parents. I'm so tired of characters who hate their parents for no reason. Juli (and Bryce, actually) break that tiresome model.
And let's not forget the subplots that run through the book. Rarely confused, always needed, and very often hilarious - Juli's chickens almost made me want to start raising them, and the Basket Boy sale was awesome.
In short, this is the way romance was meant to be written. No one's perfect, hard work is a given, and romance isn't the only thing on the characters' minds. Wendelin Van Draanen strikes again. Read it.