Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: From What I Remember (Kramer/Thomas)

AUTHOR: Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
SERIES: none
ISBN: 9781423155089
PAGES: 331
SOURCE: NetGalley
GENRE: Realistic
GIVE IT TO: upper-HS
SUMMARY: High school Valedictorian Kylie Flores wakes up hungover in Mexico only five hours before she is scheduled to speak at her graduation ceremony. Even worse, Kylie does not remember how she got there or why she wakes up in bed with (and apparently married to!) hunky and popular classmate Max. Told in alternating voices, Kylie, Max, Kylie's friend Will, her brother Jake, and Max's girlfriend Lily attempt to figure out what happened and get back in time to graduate.

REVIEW: As a sort of high school version of The Hangover, From What I Remember is a fun, adventurous romp through Mexico with (mostly) likeable characters, an idyllic tropical setting, and plenty of action and romance. The story centers on Kylie Flores, an uber-responsible and serious high school senior who is too busy planning her future to have any real fun now. Kylie ends up inadvertently stranded in Mexico with a cute boy but without a passport, cell phone service, or a car. The premise is kind of silly, the plot is full of holes, and the is story about 150 pages too long, but, surprisingly, I liked it anyway.

The characters are all over the place while the authors attempt to tackle everything from Asperger's Syndrome and homosexuality to white-collar crime and cancer. Kylie's character is an exercise in contradictions, which sometimes makes her difficult to relate to. She's smart enough to be valedictorian but it never occurs to her to back-up her screenplay. She has no confidence in social situations but has no qualms chasing a thief and climbing into the back of the bad guys' truck. She is patient with her brother's Asperger's Syndrome but has a hot-temper and overreacts when she discovers her father's history, which doesn't really seem all that shocking. Kylie's flamboyantly gay best friend Will gets irritating at times, but in the end, does not wind up as stereotyped as I thought he would be. Max's arrogance and passivity make him far from flawless, but they help dilute the image of perfection that so many YA romances love to slap on the male romantic lead. Would Kylie have fallen for him so quickly if he were overweight and covered with pimples? I doubt it.

From What I Remember's plot holes are difficult to ignore. (Some spoilers here! Highlight the white space below if you want to read them.)

Do all teenagers in San Diego have current passports in their rooms? How does Juan get over the border so easily without a passport? Is anyone one in Juan's family aware that he is crossing the border when he leaves with Will? And isn't border-crossing kind of a big deal? How does a police officer get official clearance to run lights and siren just to get some teenagers to their graduation? Does cell phone service really die as soon as you enter Mexico? If Kylie and Max could text from the back of the U-Haul, why didn't they just call the police? How/why do Kylie's parents have such a dramatic change in perspective after Kylie is gone for 24 hours, especially when, for much of that time, they don't realize she is missing? How does Kylie go from not really knowing Max to "loving" him in just a day? How did the "bad guys" even remember what Kylie and Max looked like when they saw them again and gave chase? I could go on and on.

Last, my NetGalley copy has 490 pages, but I noticed that Goodreads states the book has 331 pages. I sure do hope it's closer to 331 because 490 pages is entirely too long for this type of book. At around page 275, I thought maybe my NetGalley copy had 150 blank pages at the end or that there was some error in my page count. Sadly, there wasn't. The story should have ended within 50 pages of the "morning after." Some substantial editing of the last 150 pages would improve the book tremendously.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A fun, cute little story, From What I Remember has potential, despite some plot holes and interminable length. Librarians and parents should be aware of mature language and sexual content (see content breakdown below).

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it. Because of language and sexual content, From What I Remember is definitely high school.


  • Overall: 3/5
  • Creativity: 3/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Engrossing: 3/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Appeal to teens: 3/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 1/5 (overlong!)

  • Language: medium-high; some language sprinkled throughout including several uses of F-word
  • Sexuality: high; references to a teacher being an dominatrix, a homosexuality, gay sex (not described), a high school girl dangles over pool upside-down with breasts hanging out, teen boy and girl wake up in bed together wearing only underwear; frequent casual talk of sex and innuendos; boy touches girl's breasts at party
  • Violence: none
  • Drugs/Alcohol: high; both main characters drink, get drunk, have hangovers; teens drink at multiple parties; teens regard alcohol consumption casually

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