(Image from Barnes & Noble)
When Justina Griffith wakes up in a ditch, her prom dress tattered and covered in mysterious stains, she can't fathom how she got there. The massive bump on her head explains her memory loss. Other than that, nothing makes sense. Crawling out of the ditch, the 16-year-old hobbles to the 7-Eleven down the street in search of food and a phone. What she finds is Gilda, a kindly cashier who offers not just a Snickers bar, but also a listening ear. As she waits for someone to come rescue her, Justina spills out the whole story of her crazy prom night. What she can remember anyway. Together, she, Gilda and a handful of early-morning convenience store customers figure out exactly what happened on what was supposed to be the most magical night of Justina's life. And wasn't. Or was it?
Using the stains on her gaudy blue dress as her guide, Justina works her way through all the zany adventures that led to her (literal) ditching. Woven through all the craziness is the truth she's seeking. And, maybe, the kind of love of which she's always dreamed.
A debut novel by Robin Mellon, Ditched: A Love Story is a madcap mash-up of adventure, mystery and romance. The stain-by-stain storytelling device gives the novel a clever format, echoing its fun, lighthearted tone. Unfortunately, that's about it for the positives. Mellon's characters (the teen ones, anyway) are—almost without exception—totally shallow. They live to party, drink, do drugs, and make out (or more). Maybe this is a completely accurate portrayal of today's youth (if so, then heaven, help us!), but I really don't think it is. Regardless, fictional characters need to have some depth. Redeeming qualities are also helpful. And it's kind of a requirement that heroines care about someone besides themselves. You've probably guessed by now that Justina Griffith doesn't fit any of those descriptions. She's an irresponsible, easy, self-absorbed airhead. I couldn't find anything to like about her, let alone to sympathize with or admire. Since all of the teens in this book (pretty much) are Justina clones and the plot zooms beyond zany to just plain old silly, the entire novel (pretty much) feels as shallow as its heroine. I give it points for a clever format, a quick story and above average writing, but that's about it.
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), sexual innuendo and depictions of underage drinking/partying as well as illegal drug use
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Ditched: A Love Story from the generous folks at Disney/Hyperion. Thank you!