Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff (372 pages)
Overview: Waverly never quite fit in when she was younger. When she and her best friend Merabeth start high school, they decide that was going to change. With Waverly's brain and Merabeth's social skills, the girls rise to the top of the social ladder. But, when Waverly finally gets it all, she feels lost and empty, simply acting a part she has no attachment to.
That's when she meets Marshall Holt. Through a relaxation technique Waverly finds to fight her insomnia, which involves breathing in the aroma from a candle while counting, she finds herself transported to a party where no one can see her except for school slaker/stoner Marshall Holt. Through these odd dreams that only the two of them remember, their notions of who they have to be are slowly dismantled. Waverly feels like she can let down her guard and show her true self, while Waverly inspires Marshall to start thinking of himself and putting work into his classes despite how his home life has set him up for failure. Unfortunately, these midnight meetings can only go so far, and their very different roles on the school social chain create conflict that the two might not be able to overcome. Overall: 4.8
Characters: 5 I loved the characters and evolution in this book. I strongly identified with Waverly and how her past informs her future choices and anxieties. Throughout the book she struggles between keeping her conventional acceptance she doesn't enjoy or branching out to accept genuine love at the cost of social success.
Marshall is also a very interesting character. He is drawn to Waverly because he can see past her perfect act and identify that she too is struggling but putting on a brave face about it. She makes him strive to make choices to better his life instead of staying in the same dead end place as the other men in his family. The book opens by showcasing Marshall's self destructive coping mechanisms to deal with his family's upheaval, and his journey shows a strong evolution to learning to address real issues.
Plot: 5 I thought that the story unfolded beautifully. The actions suited what the characters needed to grow and develop, and it kept me wanting to read.
Writing: 4.8 On a whole, I loved Yovanoff's writing. I thought she articulated Waverly and her complexity beautifully. I also found her story to be well paced and have a very satisfying ending. The only reason I detracted from this score is for the first few chapters.
The reader meets Waverly who makes for a very strong point of view character. We meet Marshall first through her eyes which is good, then she chooses to initiate a point of view switch to Marshall's side. I did not understand this move at first. His opening chapter is spent melting over Waverly, a girl who is barely aware he exists. It makes him sound pathetic and one dimensional, and this chapter almost made me write off the book, but thank goodness, it was only up from there. Yovanoff quickly fixes her mistakes with Marshall and makes him a complete and compelling character, and, while I didn't see the need for a POV switch, I didn't mind it. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book that started with a promising premise and never disappointed.