By: Paula Stokes
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Page Count: 384
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
I had no idea when I first snagged my e-ARC of this one that Paula Stokes was the same person as Fiona Paul. I haven't finished the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, but I did enjoy the first novel, Venom. Once I made the connection I was even more excited to read this one. I was interested to see how Stokes would tackle a contemporary romance after writing such a vivid historical fiction. I found in many ways that I enjoyed The Art of Lainey even more than Venom. I think contemporaries are a great place for Stokes to spend her time; the characters are complex, the romance is realistic and sweet, and the relationships are multi-faceted. I devoured The Art of Lainey and was left wanting to spend more time with Lainey, Micah, and Bee.
The story begins when Lainey's perfect boyfriend, Jason, dumps her at her family's coffee shop in front of everyone. He doesn't give Lainey a reason, but she suspects not everything is right in the state of smalltown Missouri; Lainey smells something rotten and she just can't accept that maybe Jason is moving on without her. Her entire summer and Senior year has been planned with her in the role of Jason's girlfriend. Lainey isn't sure she knows who she is without that title, but her friends and family keep trying to tell her that Jason wasn't the one for her. In typical teenage girl fashion, Lainey refuses to listen and wallows in her depression until her best friend, Bianca aka Bee, steps in with a little help from an ancient Chinese warrior, Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu wrote a little well known book called The Art of War which Bee believes will provide Lainey with all the answers she needs to get Jason back. Lainey is reluctant to read the book and follow its guidance at first, but she soon decides that maybe archaic Chinese warfare really can explain a lot about the matters of the heart.
Lainey decides to launch a full on offensive when she finds Jason kissing another girl. She has to attack swiftly and unexpectedly. What better way to do that to pretend to date a guy who is the complete opposite of Jason? This is where Micah comes in. While Lainey is all sunshine and popularity, Micah is more alternative. He has multiple tattoos, a mohawk, and follows the music scene in town and neighboring St. Louis closely. These two seem to have nothing in common aside from their desire to get back with their ex. The fake relationship between these two quickly morphs into friendship, but could there be something more hiding behind the fake dates? I loved loved loved the evolution of the relationship between Lainey and Micah. The banter between these two is hilarious and well written. I also enjoyed that Micah is a vastly different heartthrob than I have seen in most YA books. Who knew a mohawk could be so swoon worthy?
In addition to the romance, I also adored the relationship between Lainey and Bee. Strong female friendships aren't always easy to find in life and YA literature, but Stokes pulls this one off beautifully. That isn't to say that these two don't have disagreements or moments where they are annoyed by the other - these things happen which makes their friendship more authentic. I also was upset with Lainey for being so self centered in the beginning, but eventually she does see the light and realizes that Bee is an amazing friend. This epiphany allows Lainey to become a better friend since she understands that she doesn't put into the friendship as much as she receives from it.
Finally, I also loved the evolution of Lainey. There were some moments in the beginning where she seemed a little whiny and shallow. I still liked her, but by the end of the novel, I adored her. I saw a lot of my teen self in Lainey - getting wrapped up in being popular, trying to deal with heartbreak, and not really knowing my true self. The teen years are difficult as people seek to establish their personalities and find out what is most important. I was happy to see Lainey learn from her mistakes and experiences; she becomes a better, more content person as a result.
I seriously could go on and on about how much I loved this book. I found it to be immensely entertaining, thought provoking, and sweet. I can't recommend this one enough to fans of contemporary romance. Half way through the novel, I texted several other Larks to tell them to pre-order this one - it's that good. I immediately pre-ordered a copy upon finishing my ARC. I can't wait to add this one to my shelf. I had also seen that this one was recommended for fans of Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss; I concur that it will appeal to the same sort of audience.
One Last Gripe: I was sad when this one ended because I wasn't ready to leave these characters.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Lainey's relationships with Micah and Bee
First Sentence: Maybe if I'd paid more attention to my mom and her tea leaves, I would have seen it coming.
Favorite Character: This is difficult because I loved so many, but I'll go with Micah.
Least Favorite Character: Kendall
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.
And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with, if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?