Released: June 2011
Publisher: Harper Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
When April’s dad relocates to Cleveland, April begs to move in with her friend Vi instead of leave behind everything that is comfortable to her, especially her boyfriend Noah. April’s dad agrees to this arrangement without knowing Vi’s mom won’t be present (she’s traveling the U.S. in an off-Broadway production). The girls provide April’s dad with a fake e-mail address, and Vi responds to every e-mail as if she were her mom. Let the bad decisions begin!
The plot is fast-paced but not hilarious like the book’s blurb promises. Perhaps it is a sign of my old age (is 26 old?) that I found the characters’ decisions to be unrealistic and obnoxious. When does buying a several thousand dollar hot tub with grocery allowance sound like a reasonable way to pay someone back? The characters in Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) are
kind of equally annoying. With the exception of Dean, Vi’s boytoy, I didn’t like any of the characters. Vi is bossy and rude (and Dean can do a whole heck of a lot better). Marissa, as it turns out, is a crappy friend. Noah is just gross. And April is…inept; what sixteen year old doesn’t know how to do basic chores– like washing the dishes or laundering their clothes? What kind of sheltered life does she live, and why didn’t her parents teach her this? Ultimately, I found it really hard to root for anyone or sympathize with anyone in this novel.
Amid preposterous decisions, this novel tried to break out of the contemporary fluff model by trying to explore difficult issues like divorce, feeling abandoned by family, adoption, and eating disorders. Unfortunately, there was too much to address in such a short novel (with sooooo much going on), that discussion of these topics lacked consistency– kind of like If I Tell by Janet Gurtler. The only topic that was explored fairly substantially in this novel was April and her relationship with Noah. The couple has been together for two years, and April feels confident that she wants to take their relationship to the next level. There is no beating around the bush here– we’re talking about sex. Initially, I appreciated how the author handled the subject. Both Vi and April look into and discuss birth control options– perhaps the only good decision made in this entire novel. Additionally, I liked how the author navigated April’s feelings toward sex. It explores the behavioral script of what losing one’s virginity should be like– reality rarely meets expectations, and her insecurities are also explored; she notices that Noah is distant, and she feels having sex will make their relationship more stable. Alas, sex does not equal love– a hard lesson learned, yet that kind of thought process is a very real one regardless of age, experience, and gender. Unfortunately, the outcome of this decision is awful, and I don’t think it really added anything to the story. It just made me feel uncomfortable and disappointed that the experience was portrayed in such a negative light. A very grey topic was painted black and white.
Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski was a quick read. I devoured it in one sitting, but readability does not make a book great. Honestly, I think the real reason I couldn’t put this book down was because the characters made some train wreck decisions, and I was rubbernecking. Overall, the book was okay even if there were a handful of parts that left me feeling disappointed, which is why I give this book two out of five stars.