Michigan connection: Patrick Jones grew up in Flint. Things Change is set in Pontiac, which is between Flint and Detroit. (See? I don't just read books set in the U.P. for "Marvelous Michigan.)
|"A" is for Pontiac. Image taken from Google Maps.|
Typical reader: Teens, mainly girls
Source: My hometown public library
Synopsis: Johanna is a high school junior under a lot of pressure to be perfect, from her strict parents and admiring teachers. Maybe that's why she shakes up her life by telling the wild, class-clown, student council president Paul to kiss her. They end up going out, and Johanna finds that she's added another high-maintenance facet to her life. Paul changes a lot about Johanna's life - but can she change him for the better?
My Goodreads rating: 4 stars
Can a leopard change its spots, a skunk its stripe? A smart girl can fall from her pedestal and get in trouble with a bad boy, but can that bad boy change for the good, to please the girl?
This is a book about a relationship, but it's not a romance. (If you've been reading my blog a while, you know I don't do romance novels.) It's what I call a "problem novel," a fictional piece, typically written for teens (or kids, to a lesser extent), about a social issue. Crank by Ellen Hopkins, which I previously reviewed, is such a book; it deals with the dangers of methamphetamine. Things Change is about abusive relationships.
Can Johanna succeed in keeping Paul happy so that he doesn't leave bruises when he pokes her? Will leaving her best friend, Pam, ease his jealousy and keep him from slandering Pam? Can Paul work to control his temper, or will the abuse escalate?
The novel is mostly told from Johanna's perspective, with a few chapters narrated by Paul thrown in. They aren't labeled, but Paul's chapters always begin with a typed note to his father, who the reader quickly learns had left Paul and his mother several years ago, and died a couple years back. It's easy enough to follow. The prose is at a good reading level - not too simplistic as to be too dumbed-down for the perspective of a top student, but not too complex or adult, either. There are sexual situations in the story, but anything beyond kissing and petting is "off-camera."
What I appreciated most about this book was that it wasn't cliche. It surprised me at times, and I liked that. The characters don't always make the right decisions, but they're very realistic.