Monday, March 24, 2014

It's Clean, Upbeat, Fun ... And I Still Gave It a D

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Chasing June, it might inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Finding June.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

For June Laurie, an 18-year-old actress from California, life is just about perfect.  Her recurring role on a popular t.v. crime show has helped her launch a successful acting career, she's still very much in love with her best friend/boyfriend Joseph, and they're both about to embark on a whole new adventure as freshmen at Brigham Young University (BYU).  June's never been to Utah, but as a devout Mormon, it's always been her dream to visit.  Now, she'll be living in the state, studying theater at the well-known LDS college.  As much as she'll miss her friends on Forensic Faculty, she can't wait to move on with her life.  

June knew going off to college wouldn't be easy, but she didn't expect the transition to be this hard.  Her new roommates already have their own lives and friends; Joseph is keeping his distance so he can focus on his upcoming mission; and the other theater majors aren't as welcoming as June expected them to be.  Lonely and disappointed, she finds herself pining for her old life in California.  Especially when an old friend makes a surprise appearance, reminding June that Joseph's not the only boy in the world.  She hasn't experienced this much drama since her last t.v. taping.  Caught up in all the turmoil of her strange, new life, June must decide—once and for all—who she is, what she wants and where she really belongs.

Finding June, the first book in Shannen Crane Camp's YA series about a young, LDS actress trying to find her way in the world, came to my attention last year when it was nominated for a Whitney Award.  As much as I liked the premise of the book, I cared little for its heroine, its melodrama and its bumpy prose.  It received a D from me.  Considering that, I was a little surprised to find its sequel, Chasing June, nominated for an award in this year's competition.  Hoping for a better-written novel this time around, I jumped right in—and came up empty.  My main beefs?  Plot, for one.  An annoying love triangle formed the main conflict, which turned me off right from the beginning because I couldn't understand why one guy would like a girl as self-absorbed as June, let alone two.  It would have worked much better as a subplot.  Also, June.  Ugh.  She's not developed well enough to be sympathetic or particularly likable.  Since she gets everything she wants without having to try very hard, she never grows as a character or as a person.  With no interests outside of clothes, boys and acting, she comes off as superficial and snotty.  Frankly, I can't stand her.  My biggest beef with this series, though, is that it barely explores the part of its premise I find most interesting—that of an LDS actress trying to maintain her standards while also working to build a career in the cutthroat world of Hollywood stardom.

On the bright side, Finding June is a clean, upbeat read that straddles the fence between young adult and new adult, thus appealing to older teens who want more mature drama without graphic sex, language, etc.  Although there are LDS themes in the book, it's really not preachy.  Non-LDS readers should be able to enjoy it without too much confusion.  Also, can I tell you how much I love the covers on these books?  They're adorable.

So, let's recap:  while Chasing June—like Finding June—offers a fun, uplifting, PG-rated story, it lacks too much in plot, characterization, and writing to earn more than a D from me.  Ah, well.

(Readalikes:  Finding June by Shannen Crane Camp)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-copy of Chasing June, provided by the Whitney Awards Committee, for use in judging contest finalists.  Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear that this book wasn't the best!

    ReplyDelete

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