FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
If you were or are like I used to be back in my schooldays, and mathematics was your least favorite subject in school precisely because you weren’t any good at it, then you might want to take a deep breath before you start reading LeighAnn Kopans’s young adult novel Solving for Ex, the first in the Solving for Ex series. The book starts that way. With a jumbling mathematical problem. The first sentence, on the other hand, really got me thinking about how a real shame it was when some of the stuff in our lives didn’t come with answers like, say, answers to what to do when our best friend is also the person that we are madly in love with.
Summer comes to an end and in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania, best friends Ashley and Brendan are starting their second year at Mansfield Prep. Telling Brendan how she really feels about him would be a brave feet for Ashley, but if she ever hoped to do so, time has run out. Thanks to two newcomers at school. Vincent and Sofia. Twins. Sofia, able to make every guy at school drool over her with her looks, sets her sights on Brendan. Vincent, meanwhile, seems to be attracted to Ashley. He looks at her like she’s a supermodel for a change. A birthday party thrown for Ashley’s seventeenth birthday by Vincent at Brendan’s house turns into a disaster. With Sofia joining the Mathletes team, is there something about the twins Ashley and Brendan should be concerned about?
Living with an aunt who can sometimes be more like a teenager than a grown up, life is different for Ashley in the suburban area she lives in now; she used to live in a secluded farmhouse back in Williamson. She lives in a sleepy street. In Williamson, she could scream murder and there would be no one to hear it. The kids, who knows what is designer clothes and what is not, she goes to school with is another story altogether. Going to parties is not a thing for Ashley because of her dirt-cheap clothing. Interestingly enough, Vincent is about to change all that shortly after he learns about her upcoming seventeenth birthday. Brendan, and this clearly gives him away as being jealous, is a bit too quick to explain that she doesn’t like big parties.
Equated by Ashley with Kaylie Mitchell, the girl who made her life a living hell back in Williamson, Sofia’s very name becomes a curse word. But that’s not the only thing other than she being with Brendan that Ashley grows to hate. “Never had I thought I would hate the smell of flowers so violently.” Sofia smells like those. Like a girl who swims in flowers all day twenty four seven. The author further reveals her to be a girl who likes being in charge of things and hints that she finds pleasure in leading guys on. To Ashley’s puzzlement, Sofia, if she wants something, can summon the required enthusiasm needed to get it. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing when, in one incident, Sofia, for once, didn’t smell so flowery. Ashley thinks her a fake person, but her brother can be called the same.
With rich brown eyes dotted with gold that can make Ashley’s heart beat a bit faster when she looks into them, Vincent seems to be quite different from Sofia. The Sadie Hawkins dance reveals one of those differences. Whereas Sofia would act on a lifeless party scene, Vincent would ignore it because he doesn’t care about bored kids being at a dance and not doing what they’re supposed to be doing in the first place which is dancing. He says and does a lot of little things that makes him come across as a genuinely nice guy, but he did hint that nothing is as it seems. This is something about Vincent that readers will often come back to, wondering just what it is that he meant by it. Ashley often notes that he gives her a fake smile, so that is another hint too that something is off.
There were some pretty humorous scenes in this novel that I liked. The one with Sofia stinking like something awful being one of them. The author did an amazing job portraying Vincent who remained like the perfect guy for a girl to date throughout. I can’t say anything more on that, but I’ll just add that he did hint that nothing was as it seemed.
“So help me God, if they ever kissed, in front of everyone, I might end up solving the freaking Hodge Conjecture.” I thought what Ashley does when she is stressed, in an irritating situation, or seeing something she doesn’t want to see makes her unique as a lead character. She solves math problems. Readers learn from the very beginning that Ashley takes her being a Mathlete seriously. Considering how she feels about Brendan, her willingness to break a promise to him not to practice for a time only proves it.
While Ashley hears Brendan using a lot of swear words in one sentence for the first time during her disaster-bound sixteenth birthday party, the night is also used by the author to reveal things about Brendan to readers that they hadn’t known before. One being that his mother has started drinking heavily because of his father’s busy work schedule. While interesting to learn about, Kopans could’ve written a scene for readers to have met and perhaps be introduced to a different side of Brendan’s mother.
For young people, it can be hard to spot those pretenders who look so perfect. Vincent and Sofia are two sides of the same coin, so young readers can walk away a bit wiser in that regard, be motivated to work hard for what they want, and be inspired to do the right thing even if no one else will. LeighAnn Kopans manages to write the perfect novel that brings down the gavel on cozening school goers.
Date Published: January 30, 2014
Genre: Teen & Young Adult
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