Brooke Greene has always felt the rush of “knowing” — a sensation most akin to realizing the right thing to do . . . and when to do it. The summer before senior year, Brooke’s longtime crush divulges he’s moving to New York City, leaving Brooke without the luxury of keeping her feelings to herself any longer. Scott Abrams is the man she’s meant to be with . . . he just doesn’t see it — or her — yet.
Drastic times call for drastic measures. As Scott prepares to move, Brooke packs up life with her controlling mother in the New Jersey suburbs to join her estranged father, who happens to live and work in the city himself. Saying goodbye to her friends and former high school, Brooke arrives in the Big Apple with plans to convince Scott of their imminent romance — but ends up creating a whole new life.
Susane Colasanti’s latest young adult novel, So Much Closer, is built on an implausible set-up — that a 17-year-old girl would, after years of anger and not speaking to her father, pack up her world and move to a strange city for a dude. Oh, we’re told it’s not for him, of course — that it’s because Brooke, a certified genius, isn’t being challenged at school (love that old line). And that Brooke has “always” wanted to live in New York, so this just works out perfectly.
But, of course, it’s for a boy.
I didn’t dislike this one. Sitting at an airport last Thursday, I read three-fourths of the novel without taking a break. More than anything, So Much Closer is an ode to the city Colasanti herself calls home — and has dedicated her newest effort to praising. In her hands, New York City does come alive . . . right down to the skylines, hidden gardens and eclectic mix of residents. I loved that aspect of the book and found myself clinging to her descriptions of a place I find magical, too.
But aside from the city descriptions, I struggled with Brooke as a character. Many reviewers have already noted that, for someone we’re to believe is very intelligent, our narrator makes some pretty sketchy decisions — especially about school. After deciding that public education is pretty much without benefit, ramming ridiculous subjects down students’ throats and stifling creativity, Brooke decides to give up and make some sort of misguided point about “not participating” in a broken system.
Her best friend from Jersey, April, totally calls her out on her ridiculous behavior . . . and with the help of John, a student she begins to tutor, Brooke realizes the error of her ways. You know, that she can do more and should do more. And a “Dead Poet’s Society”-esque teacher swoops in to show that not all teachers are part of The Establishment. And so forth.
I didn’t quite get the allure of Scott, this guy who is supposedly so fantastic that he inspires Brooke to uproot her whole life for him . . . oh, and newsflash: looks like he might not even be available. The real scene-stealer here was John, the funny and erudite New Yorker who inspires Brooke to keep looking up. Whip-smart and interesting, John was definitely my type — another Marcus Flutie who grabs hold of the heartstrings.
Family issues were never fully developed. In some ways, I never emotionally connected with Brooke — or her divorced parents, characters I wish had been fleshed out beyond the background roles they occupied. But for all my irritations here, So Much Closer was still a fast, pleasant read. Readers who enjoy young adult fiction, love stories and coming of age tales — especially those set in New York City — might enjoy Brooke’s journey from self-indulgent teen to one who peeks in at the bigger picture . . . and likes what she sees.
So Much Closer is due out May 3 from Viking.
3 out of 5!