by Cameron Tuttle
Young Adult, 352 pages. Dial (2009)
You can’t always get what you want? Not if you’re Paisley Hanover. No matter how much Cameron Tuttle’s plucky heroine, named indirectly after the cloth pattern, wants to pretend she’s UnLucky, you’ll think otherwise after finishing PAISLEY HANOVER ACTS OUT.
Welcome to Pleasant Hill (aka. “Pleasant Hell”) High School, where the social scene is so stratified, it gets its own complicated ranking system. Cute and quirky Paisley Hanover is just on the cusp of becoming a real “Pop,” or popular girl, at the beginning of her sophomore year when things take a drastic turn.
She doesn’t get into Yearbook and has to take Drama with Pleasant Hill’s ultimate freakazoids. Her BFF Jen falls in with the ultimate Pops and ditches Paisley for her cute, older boyfriend. The more Paisley circulates with the UnPops, though, the more she sees that being an UnPop isn’t as UnCool as she thought.
This sugary, hyper read gives us a larger-than-life main character who excels at word play, crushing on every cute boy in sight, drama (who knew?!) and finding out where her moral compass really lies, despite a few blunders along the way. Cameron Tuttle has created and populated a faithful, if very familiar, replica of high school and its trials and tribulations.
Fed up with the contradictions of the Pops and the bad rap of the UnPops, Paisley sets out to vent. She submits an anonymous op-ed to The Fly, the school newspaper, writing as Miss UnPleasant and urging her UnPop friends to be UnStoppable, UnIque and UnAfraid. The columns polarize the school, pitting outraged Pops against inspired and galvanized UnPops and Miss UnPleasant is an instant hit. But will Paisley be able to keep her secret identity under wraps when she runs for sophomore class president?
There’s a sequel, PAISLEY HANOVER KISSES AND TELLS, coming October 15, 2009.
For Readers: PAISLEY HANOVER ACTS OUT is a great choice for reluctant readers who’d prefer an episode of Gossip Girl to curling up with the analog version. Tons of characters keep the plot engaging as Paisley gathers friends, enemies and secrets. While no one but the main character gets many layers and sides to their personality, there’s someone for everyone to relate to here. Readers will also sympathize with Paisley’s many foibles and mistakes as she searches for her true place and her true allegiances.
For Writers: If you’re looking to study a high-energy plot, some funny dialogue and how an author builds relatively high stakes in a regular old high school world, pick up PAISLEY HANOVER ACTS OUT. While some of Tuttle’s language (especially in the text messages) comes off contrived and over-eager, the author has a great voice for this type of book, one she honed by writing THE BAD GIRL’S GUIDE series, which is a lot of fun (I tried using The Bad Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want on my parents, all through high school, to no avail). The book also comes with a special pull-out version of “Paisley’s notebook” that has notes and doodles, so check that out if you’re interested in book packaging and book marketing. The website for the book is very congested, however, and is an extension of the world, not so much an informational, functional page.