Series Review: RSVP by Jen Malone & Gail Nall

Series Review: RSVP by Jen Malone & Gail NallYou're Invited by Jen Malone, Gail Nall
Series: RSVP #1
Published by Aladdin on May 19, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Four best friends start a party-planning business in this fresh, funny tween novel from the authors of At Your Service and Breaking the Ice.
Twelve-year-old Sadie loves helping her mom with her wedding planning business, and with Sadie’s mad organizational skills, she’s a natural! That’s why it’s so devastating when her mother “fires” her after a Little Mermaid–themed wedding goes awry.

Enter Sadie’s best friends: sporty Vi, ace student Lauren, and boy-crazy Becca. The girls decide that in order to get Sadie’s mom to reconsider, they have to make her see how amazing Sadie is at party planning. Except no one’s gonna hire a twelve-year-old to plan a wedding. A birthday party, though? Definite possibility.

Before long, RSVP—your one-stop shop for the most creative parties in town—is born. Of course, Sadie can’t wait to prove herself to her mom, but the other girls also have their reasons for enlisting: Vi has her eye on the perfect gift for her hardworking dad, and Becca’s all aflush at the thought of connecting with Ryan, the new Irish cutie in town. And though Lauren thinks she’s too busy with summer studies to “officially” join, she’s willing to help out in any way she can.

But in this particular party-planning business, nothing goes according to plan! Sadie’s mom is a perpetual no-show, Vi’s archrival is dead set on ruining her summer, Becca can’t seem to get Ryan to glance in her direction, and Lauren keeps choosing studying over her friends. Is the girls’ friendship strong enough to survive a business? Or does RSVP spell the end of these BFFs?

Continuing my Jen Malone author binge, I’m making my way through her middle grade novels. Since At Your Service went well, I embarked on You’re Invited with hope. You’re Unvited is super cute, and it’s reminiscent of a modern Now & Then, so I’m pretty sure I would have loved the crap out of it if I’d read it when I was wee.

There’s a strong commonality with At Your Service: these middle graders are very career-minded. It’s a bit strange how much they think ahead, considering they’re 12, but it’s cool and aspirational for younger readers. The frame of the story comes from Sadie, but all four girls trade off chapters. The voices aren’t super unique but each has their own little quirks, so it’s a pretty good example of multiple first person narrators.

In the first chapter, Sadie, who has worked as her wedding planner mom’s assistant for a while, gets fired after inadvertently setting a major wedding SNAFU in motion. Sadie’s crushed, because she wants to be an event planner, and she loved working with her mom. She convinces her friends to start RSVP, their own event planning business, so that she can prove to her mom that she’s got what it takes. Outside of adult contemporary romance, I haven’t read any fiction about event planners, and I do like when fiction for young readers focuses on atypical careers, since it might inspire them to think outside the box.

Lauren’s the most motivated kid ever. She studies for the SATs constantly and worries about whether she’ll be able to get into Stanford like she dreams. She’s the good kid of the family. RSVP helps her loosen up a bit, and, after all, it will look good on applications. Boy crazy Becca learns that boys may be cute but friendship is better. Sporty Vi discovers that it can be fun (sometimes) to wear makeup and girly clothing. Becca’s a songwriter and plays guitar, and Vi cooks (there are recipes included with the books, some of which are very tempting). No surprise that Vi’s little potential romance with Lance is my favorite part.

In no way am I the intended audience for this, but You’re Invited is deeply cute. I’m hoping for more shippiness in book two!

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: RSVP by Jen Malone & Gail NallYou're Invited Too by Jen Malone, Gail Nall
Series: RSVP #2
Published by Aladdin on February 16, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 298
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-half-stars

The party’s just getting started . . .

The four besties behind RSVP threw some of the best parties in town over the summer, and now they’re entrusted with a big-time wedding. Only problem? The Bridezilla’s demands are increasingly loony, and Sadie, Lauren, Becca, and Vi need to figure out how to handle her without going nuts themselves. But with school starting back up and tugging at their time and attention, that's not so easy!

Lauren is having an especially hard time with the balancing act, and when her grades suffer as a result, she’s seeing red. Vi’s dad has started his new job as janitor at her middle school and really, could anything be more mortifying? According to Becca—yes. That’s because she’s just learned she needs braces and she is not a happy camper. And Sadie’s already-strained relationship with her mom has not been helped one tiny bit by RSVP’s raiding of Mom’s VIP bride.

But none of that has anything on the hurricane that’s threatening both Sandpiper Beach and the first-ever RSVP wedding.

Like the first, You’re Invited Too is precious and adorable. Plus, it’s the one in which two little baby middle grade ships set sail, so you know that was worth it.

The RSVP gang tackles their biggest challenge yet: a wedding. Dealing with the bridezilla, Alexandra Worthington, is definitely getting them down. It’s actually pretty cool both how much they struggle (since some of the bride’s requests they cannot do because of their age (like flying to Paris for specific eclairs) and how hard they work. I did like that, in the end, they did need help from adults to pull things together but that they came up with ideas and persevered on their own strengths. There’s a nice balance between upholding the skills of the kids and a dose of the real world.

The high points of the book for me are, of course, character relationships rather than wedding planning. Vi’s little romance with Lance beset by awkwardness and childish misunderstandings is mega cute. And Vi’s frustration with and ultimate acceptance of her father’s new job as her school’s janitor is very well executed. Malone and Nall also bring Sadie’s relationship with her mother to a nice conclusion, which is crucial since that started the whole series. Becca’s braces end up outshining her romance with French Philippe, which isn’t well-developed enough. The weak link was Lauren, who didn’t have a strong character arc here; she continues to struggle with balance between studies and recreation, but she doesn’t seem to really find it. The scene stealer of both books is Lauren’s grandmother, Bubby, who’s more of a teenager than any of the girls. She’s my absolute favorite.

So yeah, these books are just ridiculously cute. I do think they’d have worked better as YA, though, given the goals of Lauren especially and the fact that running an actual business is really hard. But hey, it’s good for middle graders to have aspirations.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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