Kind of Sort of Fine
Senior year of high school is full of changes.
For Hayley Mills, these changes aren’t exactly welcome. All she wants is for everyone to forget about her very public breakdown and remember her as the overachiever she once was—and who she’s determined to be again. But it’s difficult to be seen as a go-getter when she’s forced into TV Production class with all the slackers like Lewis Holbrook.
For Lewis, though, this is going to be his year. After a summer spent binging 80s movies, he’s ready to upgrade from the role of self-described fat, funny sidekick to leading man of his own life—including getting the girl. The only thing standing in his way is, well, himself.
When the two are partnered up in class, neither is particularly thrilled. But then they start making mini documentaries about their classmates’ hidden talents, and suddenly Hayley is getting attention for something other than her breakdown, and Lewis isn’t just a background character anymore. It seems like they’re both finally getting what they want—except what happens when who you’ve become isn’t who you really are?
This book really captures the true essence of senior year— the stress and almost paranoia of picking the “right” school, the ad nauseum talks about the future, growing and learning more about yourself, finding gratitude for the things you once found annoying, grappling with timing, and so much more. Hall captures all of that on these pages, and as a former AP and TV production student, I related to both characters on a very cellular level. That being said, there are so many messages in this book I wish I understood when I was their age. To start, I love how Hall shows it’s okay to do less. There is so much pressure on everyone to constantly be producing, particularly in the USA, and even more specifically in high school. It’s not healthy, and it’s exactly what Hayley has to contend with throughout this story. I also love the reminder that a couple of uncomfortable conversations can quickly solve a problem.
Beyond that, there are some elements of the story that needed more motivation or didn’t make sense to me, such as Hayley bringing a flask to school. I do get that she was trying to “be the pond scum,” but it felt more necessary for the plot than something she might actually do. That being said, I was happy to let go of those moments and go along for ride. Hall infuses a lot of humor throughout the story, particularly through Lewis, which makes the dialogue really fun and witty.
Overall, KIND OF SORT OF FINE is the perfect gift for those preparing to be seniors in either high school or college, or for those who are newly graduated. It’s a good reminder that what they’re going through or going to go through is normal, and they’re going to figure it all out in time.