I really wanted to connect with this book, because the heroine learns to ride a bike when she's well past the age most people learn, and I myself just learned this summer. Wow. That reasoning sounded less ditzy in my head.
I'll get my griping out of the way first: It was 5% too girlie-girl for me. Also, we have not one but TWO instances where our happy couple almost derail over issues that could be resolved with a simple conversation. For instance, our heroine is spending every night hanging out and talking with our hero. Something is clearly developing. Then she sees him talking to his ex-girlfriend, openly, in broad daylight, nothing untoward occurring, and decides she can't hang out with him after all. Because a sane rational girl wouldn't, I don't know, casually ask what's up with that before deciding to take a pass on a guy she likes. It really hurt my belief in the heroine's supposed great intelligence.
Okay, I'm done.
This book has multiple strong points. At heart, it's an examination of how people can change and how they sometimes don't. A lot of heavy family-oriented subjects are present as the heroine both relives getting caught in her parents' divorce and finds herself caught in the marital woes of her dad and her new stepmother. However, the book never gets heavily depressing. Dessen maintains her trademark light, romantic touch without getting too carried away with the cute. She throws in a cynical, femi-Nazi mom to even out the high estrogen level. While the heroine's new friends are shallow and feminine to the extreme, Dessen uses them as foils to the serious, socially malnourished heroine, who learns you can have both a social life and an academic life (until grad school.) As usual, the romance is heartfelt but low key, the development of the relationship fully explored and never fraught with heaving bosoms and thundering passions. Dessen focuses more on the heroine's growth as a person than on the new boyfriend.
Recommend to: Age 14+ (nothing major here, but the heroine does let the hero's brother get to second early in the book), romance fans, readers who like a gentler story, fru-fru girls, overachievers who need to be reminded to have some fun
Don't recommend to: Anyone carrying the Y chromosome