Cluing In by Jo Ramsey

Cluing In by Jo Ramsey
Publisher: Featherweight Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (228 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Age Recommendation: 16+
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jamey Mandel has life pretty good. But things may not be as good as they seem. Jamey and his girlfriend Tina Kane argue constantly. When Jamey finally gets tired of the fighting and ends the relationship, Tina almost immediately starts dating–and sleeping with–another guy. And then, a few weeks later, rumors start flying that Tina’s pregnant and that her new boyfriend wants nothing to do with her or the baby.Tina comes to Jamey for advice, and he brushes her off. When Tina takes drastic action, Jamey blames himself. Too late, he realizes that he might have been able to help her if he’d just listened.

What happens when high school isn’t the best time of your life after all?

Not only does Jamey genuinely like his parents but he listens to (most of) what they have to say and while he loves his girlfriend he’s in no rush to become sexually active with her. In fact, she’s the one who is pushing him for sex! Too often young adult fiction portrays guys Jamey’s age in a rather stereotypical manner. It’s refreshing to meet a character who breaks the mold without coming across as an after school special.

Unfortunately the dialogue doesn’t sound like it came from modern day high school students. Their speech patters were a little too formal and didn’t include the slang that one would expect sixteen year olds to fall back upon when out of earshot of adults. For example, in one of the first scenes Tina and Jamey argue about “making love”, a phrase that most high schoolers probably wouldn’t use in earnestness when talking about sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

I would have also liked to see more time spent explaining something terrible that happens to a secondary character. While she does show signs of being impulsive early on I had trouble making the connection between those scenes and what happens later on in the plot. It would have been nice to see a more nuanced treatment of this individual before pushing her in the direction the author wanted her to go. Without this information what happens to her becomes a little less believable which is a real shame as she was quite interesting.

Due to controversial subject matter and some potentially disturbing scenes I cannot recommend this story for younger teens. Some of the young adult books I’ve reviewed in the past can be enjoyed by people a few years younger than the age I end up suggesting. This is not one of those tales. With that being said, older teenagers will find kindred spirits in characters that are going through difficult social, emotional and medical issues that many young adults experience.

Even with its flaws Cluing In provides a wonderful introduction to tough conversations for people of all ages who are looking for a good way to start a dialogue. From abuse to eating disorders almost every topic is addressed with the utmost respect and compassion.

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