“Flat-Out Love” by Jessica Park

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The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Car Trip

Is there a place where you love to go?  A place that feels like home but isn’t?  I know some of you are probably humming the Cheers theme song in your head right about now… Stop it!  This is a “very special” Lisa’s Reads heehee!…Do you remember when sitcoms would have their “very special” episodes?  It would be the episode where the new kid would try to get one of the regular cast members to try alcohol…or the Saved By the Bell episode where Jessie Spanno got hooked on “uppers” (I still giggle at that one..I know it wasn’t supposed to be funny..but it was! Sorry NBC).  I digress, Is there a restaurant or a coffee shop that you frequent?  When you arrive, you know exactly what you will order.  You have had it so many times before… you can already taste it on your tongue…but that first taste still fills you with so much delight that it is almost surprising.

Something that would not come as a surprise, unless you are a first time reader, is that I love reading!  For those of you loyal Lisa’s Reads followers, unroll your eyes and stay with me..I promise this goes somewhere (wink)! Not only do I love books, I love reading children’s books with my kids.  I have often heard that childhood is wasted on the youth.  What I have been experiencing while reading with my kids, is that life’s greatest lessons can be found in the pages of children’s books.  The problem is, when we are young, we don’t yet understand the lessons; when we are older we tend to ignore them.  Some of my (and my kids) favorite books are The Berenstain Bears Collection.  I have several of them from when I was a child and I have bought at least a dozen since becoming a parent.  I always (and still do) appreciated how  Ma and Pa Bear taught their cubs life lessons.  There was always humor infused in the story but not at the expense of the lesson being taught.

One of my favorite Berenstain Bear books is a newer one.  It’s called The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Car Trip.  In this story, Ma and Pa would like to take their cubs on a summer vacation.  Of course the cubs have their ideas of where they want to go…amusement parks and water parks but Ma and Pa have a different idea. They want to take their family on a road trip throughout Bear Country… (think two week road trip).  The cubs do what kids do best…they get upset and pout. They decide that they are not going to enjoy themselves… no matter what.  What is the point of travel without a destination?  As the Bears set off on their road trip, the cubs forget about trying to be bored and they started noticing things they had never seen before.  They had a wonderful time learning about the history of their surroundings and doing things they never dreamed they would do.  Even though the destination was “home”… the Bears had an incredible journey.

So here is my question, Is the journey any less sweet if you know what lays at the end?

“Flat-Out Love” by Jessica Park was a “road trip.”  (Now remember, I will NOT give any treasures away during this review..so please continue to read!)   Ms. Park introduces us immediately to our heroine, Julie.  Julie is a college freshman who thought she was coming to Boston to set up her apartment a week before college classes started, only to find out that there was no apartment.  Julie’s mom (who lives in Ohio) contacts an old friend,Erin, who lives in Boston and the friend offers to house Julie until she finds a place of her own.  Matt, Erin’s son, is an adorable, geeky, college junior.  He is the middle child between the older, absent but hunky (via pictures and Facebook), globe trotting Finn and the younger “frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious” thirteen year old sister Celeste.  Celeste carries around a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Finn.

Ms. Park unrolled this map and showed her readers the birds-eye view of the area we were about to cover.  To be perfectly honest, it didn’t take long for me to figure out the premise of the story.  There were no hidden caves or secret bridges.  However, the path Ms. Park led us on was stunning.  I loved the way Ms. Park chose to tell this story.  She had Julie and Finn communicating through Facebook (There was a negative review about this on Amazon.com…personally, I thought is was great..this is how people communicate in 2012!)..she had Julie and Matt sharing witty and silly banter… and she showed Julie’s compassion for Celeste.  While some of the story may have been obvious to the reader, Ms. Park stayed true to her characters and allowed Julie to be an eighteen year old young woman who would never, on her own, come to the realization that we, as readers, may have seen.  During our travels, we became familiar with the small town’s roads and coffee shops, we saw rivers and the college campus.  Ms. Park’s map was visually stimulating allowing us to get a feel for the surroundings that often comforted Julie, Matt and Celeste.  Ms. Park also did an amazing job of developing her characters.  Once again, while I had a feeling I knew exactly how this story would end, I couldn’t help but to fall in love with each and every character.  I wanted to weep for their loss and cheer for their success…and I did!!

When time came for “Flat-Out Love” to end, I felt stuck.  I had my map..I knew where the finish was..my Kindle was at 99% but I didn’t want to be done. While the destination had been clear from the beginning, the journey was more than I had expected.  Ms. Park had proved that the journey was NO less sweet even though I knew what was waiting for me at the end.

As always I look forward to hearing from you.




Filed under By Author, Fiction, Jessica Park, Romance, Young Adult (YA)

5 responses to ““Flat-Out Love” by Jessica Park

  1. Sharon Price

    As always I love reading your reviews. Your blog gives reades a well informed “vision” of the story to come, as well as having your true voice come through. I especially loved reading this review. I LOVED how you paralleled Flat-Out Love with a Berstein Bear book. I have read many of these fun, “life lesson” books to my now grown children. Flat-Out love sounds like a wonderful book as well as an exciting journey. Cannot wait to read it !!!

  2. Lisa!

    I love your passion for books and now that I have discovered your blog I can’t get enough of it! Hi to your boys (I always loved reading the Berenstain Bears to them too!)
    :) Claire

    • Hi Claire! I miss you! I’m so happy that you found my blog. I absolutely love writing it. This has been such a fun experience for me…I’m hoping that it continues to grow! (So tell your friends!!) Please let me know when you’ll be home. We would love to see you. xoxo.

  3. 30-something

    Hi! I came across your blog while googling “Easy” by Tammara Webber. (LOVED the book, by the way.) I had to comment on the Jessie Spanno episode. I’m now in my mid 30’s and I still crack up thinking of that episode. “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so……… scared.” *break down in hysterical crying* I know that episode was supposed to be a PSA for us, but I just couldn’t take it seriously. Anyway, I love your blog! I’ve already gotten ideas for my next reads. Thank you!

    • Heehee.. I was cracking up when I wrote that post! All of those episodes were supposed to be so emotional but the emotions they usually got were laughter. (Probably not intended!)

      When I am writing my blog posts, these things just pop into my head..and I have to let them out. I am so glad you (my readers) enjoy my brain blips.

      Thank you for your support. I hope to hear from you again.

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