After 13-year-old Mabry Collins is dropped by her heartthrob, Nick Wainwright, (her 19th straight dumping in a row), Thad Bell, a boy with his own grudge against Nick, promises to teach her how to become the yin to Nick’s yang.
Thad’s lessons come with a condition, though: once Nick is smitten, Mabry has to promise to break his heart. It’s a cute premise, though the problems the two protagonists face are so disproportionately weighted that its execution feels uneven. Mabry, Stewart’s one-note histrionic protagonist, primarily spends her days obsessing about love, picking up her exaggerated romantic ideas from La Vida Rica, a telenovela she watches religiously. On the other hand, Thad’s father recently died in an accident that also left his mother disabled, and he’s still reeling from the loss as well as his new familial responsibilities. So while Mabry’s problems are essentially trivial, Thad’s are deeply profound, which makes it difficult to summon up sympathy for the tediously self-involved heroine. Still, Thad and Mabry have a nice give-and-take—they slowly develop a real connection—and as Mabry grows emotionally, readers’ impatience should largely dissipate.
Although overlong and narrowly aimed at romantically minded early-adolescent girls, this story will reward tenacious readers with a touching conclusion. (Fiction. 10-13)