In short, pretty much everything.
Words cannot properly express how much I love Phoebe’s character in BOOKISHLY EVER AFTER by Isabel Bandeira. From the very first page, her severely bookish voice pops and never stops. Feebs is also the most painfully accurate teen girl voice I’ve read in a long time. If I had a dime for every moment I clicked with Phoebe, I would be one wealthy woman. She is the perfect representation of an ordinary high school junior. She isn’t popular, nor is she part of the overdone “loser” crowd. She’s in band. She reads books. She knits. Phoebe and her friends are kids who fall between the cracks, which is a large population of high schoolers. Phoebe’s group has the AP kid, the drama kid, the cheerleader, the guy friend, and they all come from different walks of life be it racially or socially. It’s high school! I am thoroughly impressed with the seamless relationships between Phoebe’s core group of friends and how diverse yet similar each of them are. They could all be the friends I had in high school.
Then we have the plot of the story. Phoebe develops a crush, a real life one, and has no clue how to act on it. So, she turns to the heroines of her books for advice. They are strong, determined, savvy, and know how to handle themselves in front of the swoontastic male leads. All of these things are severely lacking in Phoebe’s arsenal. She’s an uber introverted bookworm! With the help of her friends, Phoebe undergoes a makeover, takes flirt lessons from her heroines, and does everything in her power to channel the brevity of her favorite characters to get Dev’s attention. The problem is, Phoebe begins to lose the magic of what makes her so uniquely wonderful as she tries to embody someone else.
Bandeira even includes excerpts from Phoebe’s fictional reads complete with notations throughout the book. Talk about a brilliant media addition! It was a great way to see into Phoebe’s world a bit by experiencing the worlds that inspire her to brave up. And let me just say, leprechauns have never looked so good (side note: Aedan needs to be a for real fictional boyfriend!). Just sayin’.
It’s the topic of losing who you are to garner the attention of a boy that Bandeira handles so wonderfully. The author weaves a deceptively quiet tale as it takes on a huge social challenge for teens: believing your YOU isn’t good enough. I love how the struggle to keep up the façade becomes a chore for Phoebe. Taking an insta-catalog of her appearance from makeup, hair, to clothing loses its importance around those who matter the most. As it should. And the quiet way in which Phoebe discovers her true inner strength and value is nothing short of brilliant. There is nothing preachy and there is no finger pointing. It’s just a girl finding out her true YOU is her best YOU.
The only thing that didn’t sit right was the ending, but it wasn’t for the lack of anything. In fact, I felt the ending had too much. The final chapter just felt unnecessary and somewhat took away from Phoebe’s journey and what she learned. I would have been perfectly happy without the final chapter of the book. Although, the final exchange between Phoebe and Dev made me grin in the best book-crush way.
For a cozy, quietly sweet spring read with a heartwarming leading girl who is every bit as beautifully awkward as you were in high school, look no further than Bookishly Ever After. It will make you cringe, it will make you snort-laugh, and it will warm you in all the feel good places of your heart. Bandeira combines real teens with spot-on humor and BFFs of the epic kind in this smoothly paced quirky tale of a bookish girl who falls for the hottest guy in the clarinet section.