This is a hilarious and heartbreaking story of two teen girls and the summer when everything changes for them. Both Henry and Eva are New Jersey natives and excellent athletes: Henry's a master on the tennis court and Eva is a graceful ballerina. When opportunity knocks for both of them the summer before their junior year in high school they throw open the door: Henry sees freedom from her overbearing father and a chance to build her talents on the court. Eva sees the chance to be the best as well as even more pressure to be graceful, lighter, more perfect on the dancefloor.
Soon, Eva's obsession with physical perfection leads her down the path to anorexia, and her health issues overwhelm everything else. But through it all these two best friends know that Jersey Tomatoes are the Best, and nothing will come between them no matter the distance.Well, it seems Maria Padian had a bad case of bad book summary with this one. The one on the back is actually an excerpt from the book, and out-of-context at that. It makes it seem like the entire thing is just about them living in New Jersey and surviving it, when it’s actually about two friends who get into summer programs for their respective interests. One learns that competitive sports should be about the game, not psyching your opponent out to the point where they mess up. The other descends further and further into an eating disorder that apparently started long before the book does.
Like her previous book, Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress, the book does live up to expectations where it counts. The story itself is well thought-out, and the characters are, for the most part, interesting. The basic writing is just as good as it was in her first book, too, with no clear flaws. She writes clearly and concisely, with no instances that come right to mind where she overwrote and brought more attention to the prose than what it was trying to say.
When it comes to more complicated conventions, though, she does fall a little short with this one. This book relies heavily on flashback scenes within the text, no indicators separating them from what’s currently happening. The flashbacks are in past tense, while the current action of the book is in present. As I said, the book relies heavily on these flashbacks rather than just having the scenes happen in real time, and it can get complicated and confusing, not to mention there are places here and there in the present tense text that switch to past (an editing problem, of course, but with so much jumping around it’s more of a problem than it might have been if the book had all been in past tense and some things were simply missed in the conversion).
Eva’s anorexia is handled realistically, I think, for the most part, but it gets a bit ridiculous when it comes to them actually sitting down and looking back at warning signs leading up to her being hospitalized. A common symptom of extreme anorexia in girls is missing their period. If I remember right, this is because the body is so malnourished that it uses the nutrients that would go towards preparing it for reproduction to sustain itself, and sometimes even eats the egg cells. According to the book, Eva hasn’t had her period in almost a year, which would suggest that her condition got really bad a long time ago. By all means, she should be extremely sick, if not dead. If it weren’t for that, Eva’s character arc would’ve been fine. As it is, it just looks like a bit of bad research and a lot of unhealthy denial on the part of pretty much everyone Eva knows.
For the most part, this is a good book, especially for one that alternates first-person points of view. Padian tried some new things with the book that didn’t quite work, but they didn’t deter me from wanting to finish it, and I say that’s a whole lot of points towards her. So, happy reading!