Friday, December 29, 2017

Review: Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: December 20 - 28 2017
Date Released: December 27th 2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for."


I still remember picking up Mills’ debut novel First & Then and being completely in awe of her simple yet sophisticated style and engaging characters. Foolish Heart is her third book and Mills is really showcasing her talent and ability to expand the way she writes personalities.

I found Foolish Hearts to be a bit different to her previous two books – First & Then, This Adventure Ends – in that while those two were definitely more plot focused (adjusting to a new family member and finding a painting respectively), Foolish Hearts was definitely more character focused. This is not something I regularly see in American books which are plot focused while Aussie contemporaries are more character driven, hence I found this very refreshing.

Claudia Wallace was an interesting character and at first, I didn’t think I’d like her. She was so ordinary and seemed like the wallflower type before the story really got going. As someone who’s not rich but goes to a prestigious school she kind of hides and tries to be invisible, not making an effort to make any friends despite it being her senior year. She observes and hangs back but whenever someone asked her to do something she’d do it and she came across as a bit of doormat. But then the story progresses and I realise she’s a genuinely nice person. She cares about other people and she’s also got an awesome sense of humour - +1 to anybody who speaks sarcasm. When someone really gets to know her, they know they’ve found a true friend in Claudia Wallace – she’s the person who’ll give you a lift when you’ve no one to drive you home, who will listen when you have problems, who has a wicked sense of humour when you need to hear a good joke. I also loved that she’s a nerd – SHE GAMES. She is extremely passionate about this MMORPG called Battle Quest and I was like omg you love this game like I love mapulsutoriii *hums MapleStory login theme song* (to be fair Battle Quest has way more purpose than Maple… actually on second thought what MMORPG doesn’t have more purpose than Maple?)

Anyway poor Claudia gets stuck helping out with her school’s joint production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with their brother school as extra credit for her poor co-written essay with Iris. Iris was such a well-written character. Kind of hate her because she’s a bitch who says some really scathing things and has no filter, but kind of love her too because she says it like it is and once Claudia/the reader got to know her, Iris is actually trying. She’s the kind of person who looks at a situation and doesn’t need to be told twice to get it, she’ll do the right thing. Iris also has an amazingly fascinating obsession with a boyband called TION (This Is Our Now… is that like 1D in Mill’s world?) and the singer Kenji. I could relate to this because I love my Korean boybands… not at the Iris Huang level though… but still! Her passion!

Senior year is definitely the year everything changes for Claudia though because not only does she get landed with Iris but she catches the attention of popular boy Gideon Prewitt from the brother school. And ohmygod does Mills write the most uniquely lovely boys. When we’re first introduced to the full force that is Gideon Prewitt I thought he was going to be one of those fake nice boys who plays with girls’ feelings, knows he’s hot and does drugs just because he’s a rich kid. I was so wrong. This boy is so genuinely sweet, lovely and full of excitement I fell in love with him so easily. He is extremely thoughtful, considerate of his friends and doesn’t hide his feelings to be ‘manly’. You know when guys tease each other about liking a girl in front of everyone and they get all weird about it and deny it? Gideon is the kind of guy who will earnestly say yes, he likes her. And that I find, shows a guy who feels confident in his own skin and is genuine about his feelings. This makes the romance immensely adorable and there was a lot of squealing on my part because there are so many moments that could have turned out differently HAHA. Like to the point where I’m like, is anything ever gonna happen? So cute guys, SO CUTE.

Foolish Hearts also has one of the best family dynamics I’ve ever seen. Claudia has quite a decent relationship with her parents but it’s her relationship with her siblings I enjoyed. She games with her brother Alex and their older sister Julia and her husband Mark! They go on quests and run dungeons together along with Claude’s best friend from pre-school, Zoe. It’s a different way of bonding with each other, learning how to work together in your different character classes to battle bosses. Alex is a great brother to Claudia, protecting her and while Julia may not live at home anymore, they obviously all care about one other what with the constant calls and texts like you’d have with friends. Great family dynamics like this aren’t usually explored and despite their non-constant presence, Mills managed to really give their personalities depth.

Another aspect I really appreciated was the amount of diversity Mills explored. I acknowledge that her previous books didn’t have as much of this (I recall This Adventure Ends had gender diversity) and it kind of felt like it was included amidst all the outcry of whitewashing in books. However, I think Mills did diversity right. There’s diversity of class, of race, of sexual orientation but it’s never used as an excuse for anything or as a plot device. These characters just are and don’t impede on the overall story.

All of this to set to the backdrop of the progress of turning A Midsummer’s Night Dream into a fully-fledged production. Friendships are formed in rehearsals, whilst sewing costumes and practicing lines. Romance is lowkey forming watching each other on stage and interact with others. There’s misunderstandings and drama… just like a Shakespearean comedy!

With the genius that Mills has established early on and continues to display, Foolish Hearts is like a standard high school romance but when you look closely, resembles a piece of literature the book heavily references. With a cast of stunningly unique and memorable characters, Foolish Hearts is a lovely contemporary that further cements Emma Mills as a truly talented YA writer.

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