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Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park

Monday, October 27, 2014

Publisher: Createspace
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation. But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe. Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him. Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love. Whether you were charmed by Celeste in Flat-Out Love or are meeting her for the first time, this book is a joyous celebration of differences, about battling private wars that rage in our heads and in our hearts, and—very much so— this is a story about first love.
Flat-Out Love was such a pleasant surprise and Flat-Out Matt was so full of heart that I wished it had been a full length companion novel, so I had high expectations for Flat-Out Celeste. Celeste was a stand-out character in the other two books, in fact she was the hinge, so I was excited to read her story.  
Flat-Out Celeste jumps forward a few years and we find Celeste in her senior year of high school which she cannot wait to get over with so that she can start college – a place where she believes she’ll be more accepted. However, exploration of the top colleges in the Northeast brings about a worrying problem – even though these places are world class when it comes to academics, the social politics are still the same as high school. Celeste feels she will not fit in anywhere – despite a few people knocking on the door of her life, trying to get to know her. Enter student representative Justin who manages to infiltrate Celeste’s world and open her up to the possibility of leaving her comfort zone – starting with considering college on the west coast – and perhaps dragging Matt along with her. 

Flat-Out Celeste is such a deep character study of a complicated individual. I laughed a lot and even almost shed a tear or two at various points (a little embarrassing as it was my commute read). Anyone who finds interaction and just being vaguely social a little difficult will relate to Celeste. One line that sums up Celeste’s social experience – and a line that really tugged at my heart: 

“It feels as though I must work very hard for everything. It’s not easy.” 

It’s a YA book so I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I say Celeste has a romance. However, it’s very well handled and is very Celeste. I liked that it was a sloooow burn – and not in the will they/won’t they/furtive glances from under eyelashes kind of way but more of a you are here, I am there – physically, emotionally, geographically – so we’ll do things our way. Basically, it felt very true. Celeste has so much to deal with and I appreciated that her issues weren’t resolved at the end like magic (or by her new found love – I hate when the female character is miraculously ‘cured’ of all her problems when she meets her guy). Instead, we leave Celeste working on herself – because that’s life. I also enjoyed Matt’s presence and there’s some fun in store for Matt and Julie fans. 

Overall, I just rally like Jessica Park’s mature and layered style of writing. Flat-Out Celeste is a great read for fans of the series and I’m sure newcomers will enjoy the Watkins drama very much too. If you liked This Song Will Save Your Life, you'll love Celeste! 

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