Y'all, I freaking adored Sarah Strohmeyer's YA debut Smart Girls Get What They Want, and I was very excited to get my hands on her next YA effort, also given a super long title. What I wanted from How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True (henceforth to be called How Zoe because my fingers are tired) was a light, funny read to combat all the science fiction and dystopian books I've been reading. How Zoe was the perfect little palate cleanser, and just what I needed to read at this moment.
How Zoe is super cutesy. Like, cutesy to the power of kittens dressed up like princesses, okay? It is not, however, set in the 80s and does not involve cotton candy, as the cover seems to suggest. The mood is light-hearted and Strohmeyer's goal is to make the reader laugh and smile. At this point in my reading, I really wanted something sweet and funny, and How Zoe fit the bill perfectly.
How Zoe takes place at a fairy tale-themed theme park, Fairyland. Zoe and her cousin (and best friend), Jess, have gotten coveted internships to work in the park over the summer with 38 other teens. Two of the interns, one male and one female, will win $25,000 dollar scholarships at the end of the summer for being the best of the best and showing that Wow! spirit. Both Jess and Zoe could really use that money, since Jess' parents lost their jobs and have already used up her college fund, and Zoe's family is strapped for money due to her late mother's medical fees.
Fairyland serves as the perfect set up for romantic drama, because it's 40 attractive kids away from home for the summer. Plus, there's mystery and backstabbing and general rule-breaking. Yes, it's a bit silly, but that's totally the point. How Zoe is a great readalike for Strohm's Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink or Sales' Past Perfect, both of which take place at historical reenactment towns, and, personally, it's my favorite of the three.
What I like best about Strohmeyer's YA novels is that, though romance is a big part of them, she doesn't spend all of her time on that. She really highlights the importance of female friendships and of reconsidering first impressions. Though Jess and Zoe don't get to spend too much time together through the course of the book, because Zoe's role keeps her so busy, Zoe always keeps Jess' well-being in her thoughts. Never at any point does Zoe resent Jess for being the princess-type, while she's not. Jess and Zoe are totally supportive of one another at every turn, and it's so great to see healthy female friendships in YA.
What Left Me Wanting More:
My only real complain with How Zoe is the ending. The last chapter feels rushed and infodumps a ton of information on the reader. What could have been a cool twist ends up feeling way too neat and rushed. Plus, the whole resolution seems a bit unlikely, even in the context of the story. Why would Zoe have specifically been chosen for this? How could it have been in play the whole time and what if it fell through? Both the conclusion and the romance, while decent, would have been much more satisfying with a bit more time put into them.
The Final Verdict:
Even more than in Smart Girls, How Zoe is a fluff book. If you're looking for something with a dark center or deep themes, How Zoe is not going to be your book. However, if you're looking for a fast-paced read full of heart and humor, you can't go wrong with Sarah Strohmeyer's YA novels. I know all of her future YA efforts will continue to end up on my to-read list!