Review: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

Review: The Art of Lainey by Paula StokesThe Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
Published by HarperTeen on May 20, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
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four-half-stars

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?

My streak of books not betraying me continues. Once again, the community was so right about this one. I had my concerns, but the book was all HAHA I GOT THIS. Okay, and now I’m having a little chat with the book which is totally not weird at all. The Art of Lainey would like you to know that it’s completely normal, indeed. This book needs to learn about boundaries and not watch me when I’m typing or I’ll be too shy to tell you all of my feels. *flips book over* The Art of Lainey is utterly fun and engaging, full of realistic characters, some serious swoon, and the sort of hijinks and amazing settings that had everything playing out like a movie in my head.

To be entirely up front, I’m going to tell you a probably surprising fact: I don’t love the heroine. Lainey’s totally not someone I could envision being best friends with at all. She’s not incredibly smart, she’s a jock, and she’s popular. She spray tans herself orange because her boyfriend said she looked better that way. Despite her rep as a mean girl, she mostly seems to let her boyfriend Jason and his sister Kendall boss her around and tell her who to be. Obviously, she’s got a narrative arc and grows and changes a lot during The Art of Lainey once Jason dumps her, but though we get to be acquaintances Lainey and I are not kindred spirits.

All of that is to say that I think it’s a lot easier for me to love a book when the characters are in some way reflecting myself. Of course I love a book about a girl like me who goes on magic adventures or finds the perfect guy. I’m not disparaging those books either. However, I’m always really impressed when an author can make me care about a character I initially have negative feelings towards, as I did with both Lainey and Micah. Oh right, Micah I disliked because of his smoking habit, which is something I super do not approve of. BUT Stokes made me care about the two of them. She made me invested in spite of myself. I mean, damn, do they have chemistry. Just damn.

The beginning of the book was immediately entertaining, because the dumping reminded me of She’s the Man, with the perfect soccer star relationship ending dramatically. At the same time, though, I was definitely torn on the premise. Lainey, Micah and Leo are all determined to win their exes back using Sun Tzu’s strategies, which is admittedly a hilarious premise, but also, kids, please have more self-esteem. Basically, my advice would be to just roll with it, because the ultimate message is a healthy one, so enjoy the humorous ride along the way.

Speaking of healthy, there’s a lot of wonderful healthy stuff in The Art of Lainey. First off, Lainey has two loving parents. They’re not around much, but they’re present. She’s a rising senior and hasn’t ever done anything terrible, so they trust her. However, her mom steps in once to prevent a bad plan, and has obviously been keeping an eye out to her daughter’s safety. They’re believable, caring, slightly awkward parents. Then there’s Lainey’s best friend Bianca, who is Spanish and really smart and reliable. I wish she were in the book slightly more, but I do like how quietly there for Lainey she is, which is amazing given everything. The Art of Lainey is also very sex positive with mention of birth control, and very much not a this-high-school-relationship-is-true-love-that-will-last-forever sort of book. Oh, also, all the characters are thinking about what comes after high school, which is super realistic but often doesn’t happen.

The one aspect of The Art of Lainey that left me unsettled was Kendall, Lainey’s other best friend and her ex-boyfriend’s sister. Kendall is a classic mean girl, complete with a whole host of both mommy and daddy issues. I sort of feel like Kendall gets shafted with the whole thing. Basically everything that Lainey’s ever done wrong sort of gets thrown in Kendall’s direction. While Kendall’s definitely deserving of a lot of blame, that felt unfair, and I would have liked to see a bit more depth from her. I’m also curious as to how Bianca is still friends with Lainey because I can’t imagine Kendall being nice to her and I suspect Lainey probably dumped Bianca a lot for Kendall and Jason. Kendall was conveniently out of the way over the summer, but I just cannot fathom what their dynamics were like before.

The Art of Lainey is a fabulous read full of life-like characters and it had me flipping pages really quickly, more desperate to find out not so much what would happen but how than I’ve been in a while. I’d say it’s a good readalike for Lauren Morrill’s Meant to Be with the opposites attract element or for readers who want an athletic heroine or a love interest with a mohawk.

Favorite Quote:

“That douchebag was your whole world? I feel sorry for you.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif she's the man dancing

3 responses to “Review: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes”

  1. Meg says:

    I had my concerns, but the book was all HAHA I GOT THIS. <—YES. THIS. This was my favorite thing about Lainey, I think. It delivers in the way I hoped it would but did not expect it to.

    (The is nothing weird about conversing with books)

    However, I’m always really impressed when an author can make me care about a character I initially have negative feelings towards, as I did with both Lainey and Micah. <— MORE YESSS.

    Basically yes to this whole review, all of your words and thoughts are good and smart and yes. Best quote is best, etc.

    I’m so glad you lurved it!

  2. I’m anxiously awaiting to read this one myself! I am a bit apprehensive about not liking Lainey at first – admittedly, I’m a reader who generally has to like/enjoy the MC to fall in love with a story, but I’m hoping her growth will be enough. I’m just worried about being annoyed by her obsession with her ex (same goes for Micah). But everyone keeps saying the romance is adorable, and there’s not really a love triangle/square, so I’m cautiously optimistic I’ll love this too.
    Thanks for your review! 🙂

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