The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig by Don Zolidis (342 pages) To Purchase From Your Local Indie Bookstore*
Overview: This is a love story. It's a life story. There is not happily ever after, but it's not like the ending is sad. It's realistic. It's the out of order tale of seven break ups and six make ups during Amy and Craig's senior year of high school. Amy is Craig's first girlfriend, and he loves her, and she loves him, but life is complicated. Craig has to navigate his family's financial difficulties after his dad loses his job. He has to figure out if college, which was always a given, is even a possibility even more. Amy is taking care of her mom, who has cancer, and trying to balance leading the class and all her club commitments. Sometimes, there's only so much one relationship can take. Overall: 5
Characters: 5 I love Amy and Craig. Craig narrates the story, and he is hilarious. He plays on irony and sarcasm is perfect. He's endearing and well intentioned- often confused. But he really does try his best to support his friends and family.
Amy has a lot to balance. Her Dyslexia means that every assignment has to be triple checked for spelling errors, even with spell check, and her commitments are numerous. She's at the center of everything which is difficult to balance by itself, let alone with family issues.
Amy and Craig's connection is as honest and genuine as they are, and I'm still struck by just how realistic every moment is.
One thing that helps this is that they have entirely fleshed out lives. We know both their families, and they play an active role in the book. We also know their friends and even their friend's parents which builds a level of understanding that makes you feel like you already live in the world. You get the nuances from the first page. Their history feels real.
Plot: 5 Like the characters, the plot is layered and dynamic. While the break ups and make ups are on center stage, they're far from the only issues at play. As mentioned above, Amy and Craig both have very full, complicated lives, and we get to see them work through these issues parallel to their relationship.
Writing: 5 The voice in this book is so good. It's witty and wonderful, and I actually laughed out loud. I'm not sure if I've ever audibly laughed about a book while reading before, but it happened multiple times reading this one. From the first page, you'll be hooked. Somehow, even though the book starts three, it feels like you know their entire history already. You're invested in the fight like you've already seen their relationship come together. I still can't figure out how he did it, but it's a pretty amazing reading experience.
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