Coming Attractions is inspired by The Perpetual Page Turner's Save The Date. Coming Attractions showcases a book that is not released for a while that I've read, and gives you a sneak peek (like a pre-review) as to what I thought about the book, since I can't post the review until closer to the release date.
One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent McKinnon. If she can’t even find the courage to look Trent straight in his beautiful blue eyes, she sure isn’t brave enough to play or sing any of her songs in public. But something’s changing in Fiona. She can’t be defined by her scars anymore.
And what if there hadn’t been an accident? Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss. When her luck goes south, even lacrosse can’t define her anymore. When you’ve always been the best at something, one dumb move can screw everything up. Can Fi fight back?
Hasn’t everyone wondered what if? In this daring debut novel, Moriah McStay gives us the rare opportunity to see what might have happened if things were different. Maybe luck determines our paths. But maybe it’s who we are that determines our luck.
I honestly don't know how I feel about Everything That Makes You. It has good bones and there were some seriously good moments, but at times I felt like I'd landed in the middle of a CW show. Considering the subject matter and the way it's handled, my guess is that this will appeal to people who liked 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen. It has the same issue novel that ends up being pretty cute vibe, though, personally, I liked 17 First Kisses better.
This didn't work for me:
I think the biggest problem for me was how fragmented Everything That Makes You is. In total, this book spans two years and two very different timelines, but it has the habit of only focusing on the events of a few months and then skips almost a year . The result is that I felt pretty disconnected from everything going on, because while McStay shows us what happens, she has a tendency to glance over the emotional ramifications, which in turn takes away from characterisation. Sometimes the characters' reaction to certain events in their lives were revealed in flashbacks, but aside from the way in which the characters belonging to Fi's timeline were influenced by a major spoiler, the emotional dimension of this book fell pretty flat for me.
The narrative also has a tendency to overtell. If we're talking non-evaluative/opinion-based writing, it isn't enough for me to say a character is sarcastic and funny. I have to see that she is those things. The same goes for labelling your interactions with someone "easy-going banter". That's a pretty dangerous claim to make, because everyone has a different idea of exactly what easy-going banter is, but when I see these sort of character and interaction descriptions in the text itself, I always feel like the narrative is telling me to interpret them as such, and I have a problem with authority so that might just be me.
Then there's the CW aspect, by which I mean that sometimes it gets really predictable. I'm talking the snorting/eye-roll worthy type of predictable, but, luckily, it never got to the point where it became flat-out annoying. Furthermore, it took me a while to get into the story. This goes for Fi's timeline in particular. It also likes to get a bit meta with statistics and philosophy analogies, which just isn't my thing personally, but sometimes it was pretty cute in context.
This worked for me:
The major selling point for me is that Everything That Makes You doesn't try to push some fate/destiny/meant to be agenda. No, Moriah McStay really shows how different experiences and choices can make us into completely different people. Fi and Fiona have very different voices, so much so that Fi often sounded a lot older than Fiona. And it's not just that they are different people. Their experiences and accompanying reactions have also left an impression on the people in their lives, and how they react with them. Each timeline represents a completely different world and I thought that aspect was executed very well.
What I liked about Fiona's story line in particular is that she doesn't let her scar define her. Sure, she has moments of insecurity and a lifetime of people's reactions has made her extra sensitive, but she knows she's so much more than her face. I often got the feeling that she actually did accept herself and didn't see it as an issue, and that it were her mother and brother who kept pushing their guilt and ideals on her. There are a few (spoilery) things that initially made me very nervous, because they supported the "need to fix" ideology in a way, but the manner in which they were handled clearly showed that was not the case. Even with everything that happened, I'd still say this book is more about acceptance than it is about fixing.
There's a healthy focus on friendship in Everything That Makes You. With lacrosse and later developments in her story, Fi's world is very guy-focused, but that doesn't mean she's the Exceptional Woman that every guy wants. She has some genuine, meaningful friendships with guys in her life, and it's never because she's so different from "other girls". What Fi and Fiona have in common is a good sibling bond with their brother, though there are variations there too. I also liked how it was shown that people who were best friends in one timeline were just distant crushes or mere sort-of-tolerable acquaintances in the other.
One example of that is Fiona's lesbian best friend Lucy, who's reduced to a slightly annoying group project partner in Fi's world. They have a great, very supportive but still realistic friendship, and unlike Fi and Trent, it isn't based on the big revelation that Lucy has always been in love with Fiona. Don't get me wrong, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping they ended up being the ship, but I'm so happy it was shown that just because your best friend is queer, doesn't mean she'll inevitably fall in love with you. As for the rest of the ships, there are a few, some of which work out and others don't, which is good and realistic, considering this novel also crosses the gap between high school and college life, and the additional fact that I didn't really ship the high school ships ANYWAY.
And then there was some random cantaloupe obsession that I think was a metaphor for love or being in love, and I don't know where to classify it but I felt like it had to be mentioned anyway.