Review: Dear Cassie

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Dear CassieDear Cassie by Lisa Burstein
Series: Pretty Amy #2
Published by Entangled Teen on March 5, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central

What if the last place you should fall in love is the first place that you do?

You’d think getting sent to Turning Pines Wilderness Camp for a month-long rehabilitation “retreat” and being forced to re-live it in this journal would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.

You’d be wrong.

There’s the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven’t talked to since and probably never will again. And then there’s the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can’t talk about with the guy I can’t even think about.

What if the moment you’ve closed yourself off is the moment you start to break open?

But there’s this guy here. Ben. And the more I swear he won’t—he can’t—the deeper under my skin he’s getting. After the thing that happened, I promised I’d never fall for another boy’s lies.

And yet I can’t help but wonder…what if?

First Sentence: “Are you there, Smokey Bear?”

Dear Cassie is, initially, a very hard book to like. Where Amy in Burstein’s debut Pretty Amy is weak and sympathetic, Cassie is brash, vulgar and completely uninterested in anyone’s pity. At times, Dear Cassie hurts to read, and I had a pretty visceral reaction to some of the hatred that Cassie spews at everyone. However, Dear Cassie is also the kind of book that slowly changes over time to become something else entirely, depicting an impressive character arc through the alteration in the writing style.

For approximately the first half of the book, Cassie insults everyone, both out loud and in her head, and she swears like a sailor. She slut shames, she makes nasty assumptions, and she generally hates on every single person in the world. While it’s fairly obvious Cassie uses this hate as a coping mechanism, as a way of avoiding her own problems, it’s not pleasant to read. What Burstein does quite effectively, though, is reflect Cassie’s progress in rehab through her writing. As the book progresses, Cassie talks less about others, and sticks much more to the basic facts. She swears less, mostly only in her dialog. Over the course of the novel, her outlook becomes healthier, and that’s reflected so well in the narration.

What I am perhaps most glad of is that Cassie had a deeper issue than the arrest that was so central to Pretty Amy. Yes, it was the catalyst that sent Cassie’s life spinning off the rails, but she had much bigger problems come after. Burstein deals with a larger, darker subject than that, and does so well. Burstein does not try to fully heal Cassie over the course of the book, and she doesn’t oversimplify her experiences. In fact, I think Cassie’s still trying to bury her past, to forget what she’s done at the novel’s closing, which is more realistic than being over what she’s been through.

I almost DNFed Dear Cassie, but pushed on in hopes of the change that I did eventually find within its pages. Like with Cassie herself, the other characters come off as stereotypes of the different kinds of rebellious teens: the slutty one, the tortured one, the hot one, the tattooed one, the jock,  etc. It’s a regular breakfast club of teen lawbreakers. Burstein does eventually give a bit more depth to the others, but the story really isn’t about them. I get that the focus is on Cassie’s mental progress, and that this wasn’t the kind of camp where they all sit around and talk about their feelings. They’re there because they’re sort of beyond the point where ordinary behavior, like talking with others, can shock them out of their ways. Still, a bit more development into some of them might have been nice.

What left a bad taste in my mouth, though, is the romance. I do understand the purpose the flirtation served in helping Cassie overcome her issues with boys, but I think they got too serious too fast. I never felt a real connection between them, and I really don’t think she’s mentally stable enough for a relationship right now, not to mention a long distance one. On top of that, I’m not entirely convinced Ben is on the level. The romance sort of overpowers the plot towards the end, and that is unfortunate.

Much darker than its counterpart Pretty Amy, Dear Cassie tackles rough subject matter in an honest, harsh way. Though not for everyone, Dear Cassie will appeal to those looking to see more grit in YA writing, those sick of wimpy heroines. Burstein’s sophomore novel is daring, and sure to be a hit with the right readers.

Favorite Quote:

“‘You need to live this life,’ she whispered. ‘You can live it with regret, or you can let it go.'”

19 responses to “Review: Dear Cassie”

  1. Amy says:

    I really enjoyed this book, but her books definitely aren’t for everyone. I really love Lisa’s writing. I like that she’s not afraid to be honest and harsh, or leave things a bit unfinished since it is realistic that not everyone can be fixed so easily. I’m glad that you enjoyed this one more than Pretty Amy. Great review!

    • Christina says:

      Ha, actually, I liked Pretty Amy better, though I suppose I can see where you came to that conclusion. I do think Amy was a weak character, but understandably do, and she has her own character arc. Cassie is harsh. The first half of this book made me so mad about any number of things, but it was worth it in the end.

  2. Angie F says:

    Great review! I completely agree that Cassie is a bit hard to warm up to, and the romance was very rushed. I did end up really enjoyed this one though.

    • Christina says:

      Glad you ended up really enjoying this one. Cassie was a bit too slow to warm up to overwhelm the first half which made me sort of mad, but I did still like it.

  3. Hm, I am definitely curious about this series but I don’t like that the characters are cookie cutters. I like that Cassie changes a lot through the story though, that is always something that I appreciate in novels. Oh and the romance being too fast, bleh. Happy that you liked this one overall though. I still have to read Pretty Amy! I have had that one recommended to me so many times!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, some of them did get developed as it went on, but some didn’t. Cassie didn’t really have interest in getting to know them, so I get it, but I still like the whole cast to be more rounded. I think you’d enjoy Pretty Amy.

  4. Stephanie says:

    The darkness and grittiness of this actually makes me want to read it more…I liked Pretty Amy and was curious about Cassie during this one. I do wonder if the romance was emphasized to make the book more marketable/appealing, especially if it seemed out of place? I’m going to try to get to this one by the end of the summer!

    • Christina says:

      I think you’ll probably enjoy this one. I’m not sure why the romance was such a big thing. Maybe because it’s pubbed by Entangled? They seem to have a strong focus on romance.

    • Stephanie says:

      Yeah, their submission guidelines say that every book HAS to include romance, although I’m not so sure that’s true in practice for all their YA titles…

  5. David Allan says:

    This sounds like it would be better as a movie then a book. I’m always disappointed when I have that thought. I tend to wish I was reviewing the movie instead of the book.

    I do have a question though. What is DNFed?

    • Christina says:

      Huh. I’ve not really considered that. A lot of it is just her thinking about things, so I don’t know that I would say that.

      DNF = Did not finish.

  6. Soma Rostam says:

    Well, Christina, I have heard a lot about Pretty Amy and Dear Cassie. And I really wanna read them to know what happened at the Prom Night. It is really intriguing. But I hate it when I feel the romance is rushed and not realistic or out of place.
    GREAT review,
    Your reader,

  7. Megan K. says:

    Huh, I know a lot of people who didn’t like Pretty Amy much, so is it bad of me to say that it isn’t surprising the sequel wasn’t all that spectacular either? I’m happy to hear that the book develops into something more – especially with Cassie. She kind of reminds me of Beth from Dare You To, though Beth doesn’t exactly drop her swearing habits (not that I blame her – she’s quite a likable person in the beginning anyway). Bleargh. In the end, it’s always the romance. Sounds like another case of insta-love. :/

    I don’t think I’ll be getting to this book soon, because I’m not sure if I’d like it (haven’t had the best of experiences with Entangled’s novels, TBH). Anyway, thanks for such an honest and helpful review, Christina. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Well, I actually did like Pretty Amy, but I know people who didn’t too. Sounds like this might not be for you, though. Good to know what works for you and doesn’t!

  8. Molli Moran says:

    Hmmm. Initially I had NO interest in reading either of these books, especially when I heard this was a companion novel to PA. I’m still not sold on them, but I’m glad you enjoyed this one, Christina. Cassie sounds like she starts out as a definite hot mess, so it should be interesting to see how the author redeems her. I’m a sucker for novels with character growth, so I may think on these books for awhile, and might eventually read them.

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

    • Christina says:

      The novels are certainly interesting. I recommend them, but I know Burstein’s style doesn’t work for everyone. *shrugs* I don’t really know your tastes well enough yet to be able to say whether you’d like them or not.

  9. I do like dark, but this seems to be a little much for me. I also really like people who cuss a lot. But, eh, I am not sure I could be into the crap romance and how long it takes for Cassie to make a change.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I almost DNFed, but I was like, no, I should give it time, and it was worth it, but definitely a struggle for a while. You have so much to read that I get not wanting to wait.

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