Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.
Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.
Finding Mr. Brightside is the Silver Linings Playbook of Young Adult literature, or at least that’s how I felt while I was reading the book. It’s short. Packs a punch. And had me curious as well as giggling my head off while I read. It’s not your typical contemporary novel with love being the ice cream to the cookie sandwich. Jay Clark delivers a gritty, sad story that brings two teens together in search for closure after their parents, who were having an alleged affair, pass away. A novel set-up I never expected to find on the shelves, but Jay Clark does wonders in bringing the waves of comical happiness rolling in with the emotional grit of loss, betrayal, and falling in love.
I feel as though there needs to be more readers of Jay Clark. His writing is hysterical. The way he crafts his characters, like Abram and Juliette whose voices just lift off the page, is fantastic! He is (and I’m kicking myself for saying this but…) an up-in-coming John Green-minus-the-pretentiousness-of-his-characters. Since reading his first novel, The Edumacation of Jay Baker, I could see Jay Clark’s voice shining through despite the gritty topic that he discloses. Finding Mr. Brightside being his second novel, improvements along character development and writing could be seen, and it was a pleasure to see an author grow all the while bringing the things I loved reading back and better than ever.
There is a little running joke that goes through the entire novel about whales and whenever it came up I just couldn’t stop myself from smiling. Whales are pretty cool mammals, ya know. But the entire inside joke did not grow old. I actually felt like I was in on the joke, laughing and smiling along side Juliette and Abram. It was a pinnacle moment that really summed up how the book felt for me. One joke that brings two people with a troubling past together. While the part of the novel where both Abram and Juliette venture to the beach house that there parents met in secret as a means of unraveling the secrets behind the affair was key, it did start to wander away from the rooted plot, and made the trip sway towards far-fetched, rather than a pivotal point of progression between the two main characters.
The resolve towards coping with those lost and trying to remain in touch with them was a habit not only for Abram and Juliette, but their parents who remained behind with them. Finding Mr. Brightside expresses the nature of those coping with the loss of loved ones, and the building of friendship into a romantic relationship with the underlying loss impacts their daily lives and the lives of their families. Jay Clark has written himself another wonderfully comical, hopeful novel mixed with woeful incidences that shatter families, but explore the road to recovery.