By the Book
Mary Porter-Malcolm has prepared for high school in the one way she knows how: an extensive review of classic literature to help navigate the friendships, romantic liaisons, and overall drama she has come to expect from such an “esteemed” institution. When some new friends seem in danger of falling for the same tricks employed since the days of Austen and Tolstoy, Mary swoops in to create the Scoundrel Survival Guide, using archetypes of literature’s debonair bad boys to signal red flags. But despite her best efforts, she soon finds herself unable to listen to her own good advice and falling for a supposed cad—the same one she warned her friends away from. Without a convenient rain-swept moor to flee to, Mary is forced to admit that real life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction and that if she wants a happy ending, she’s going to have to write it herself.
Mary Porter-Malcolm sees life as points of literary reference. She cites classics as though they’re guidebooks to life. In some sense, most readers view the world this way. Books have a way of turning your brain in the most delightful manner. You can imagine your hero as Prince Charming, or maybe you envision yourself as a knife-wielding hunter. Books allow your imagination to be not only boundless but unrestricted.
This novel is an ode to the beauty and complexity of literature—more specifically how it's a direct reflection of human life most books are modeled after.
When Mary makes friends with girls seemingly on the verge of being taken by cads, they come up with a Scoundrel surviving guide that’s supposed to help them navigate dating by avoiding the boys determined to break their hearts. Alex Ritter winds up at the top of that list—and due to ignorance and miscommunication, he stays there undeservingly.
The beauty of this novel is the heroine's growth from the beginning of the novel to the very end. She goes from an unassuming book worm to a life-learned teen with the world before her.
Between her growth, the endearing family dynamic—and the top tier banter between Alex and Mary, I have to say this is probably one of my favorite YA novels. It was as adorable as it was heartwarming. 'By the Book' was an all-around enjoyable literary experience. I'm eager to see what else this author cooks up!