"Daisy Brooks’s senior year is not off to a great start. Her first assembly as school captain is slightly ruined by her new bright orange hairdo – thanks to her father’s inability to choose correct permanent hair dye. The local Blonde Brigade is already giving her a hard time (and affectionately dubbed her ‘ranga’) and her teachers have done the unthinkable and handed out assignments on the first day back.Friendship on Fire by Danielle Weiler
The one bright spot in Daisy’s first day back is the appearance of a private school boy hottie. Oh, and her best friend and vice-captain, Roman, who she can count on to hold her temper and have her back.
But the winds of change are sweeping through Daisy’s small town of Twin Rocks. Turns out the private school hottie is new in town and fast friends with her brothers. His name is Nate and he turns Daisy’s legs to jelly. But her totally platonic best friend, always reliable Roman, is starting to act strange.
This is Daisy’s senior year. She’ll learn hard truths and lose small battles on the path to adulthood . . . but, hey, nobody said it was going to be easy." (from Goodreads)
My reaction: Very mixed, overall. Honestly, my initial reaction after reading the first couple chapters was: this writing needs help and I'm not liking the main character. I was a bit worried it could end up being a DNF, but I persisted and actually ended up getting caught up in it.
I'm not going to lie, I found Daisy to be very annoying much of the time. She struck me as whiny, extremely melodramatic, and self-centered. She acted like the whole world revolved around her — not uncommon for a teenager, but hardly an endearing trait. However, to be fair, she had some good qualities as well. I respected it when she stuck to her principles (although I think she needed to do so more often, as she placed way too much value on Nate's opinions and wants) and showed some pride, and I liked that she decided for herself how she wanted her relationship with Nate to progress in terms of intimacy. By the end, Daisy had grown on me (although my favourite character has to be Roman.) But you may find yourself wanting to smack some sense into her because she can't see what's right in front of her!
The supposed immediate attraction between Daisy and Nate seemed too contrived to be believable. But the infatuation stage Daisy went through feels genuine, and Nate turns out to be a more complex character than you might expect at first. I appreciated that Weiler does not pinpoint him in a black-and-white kind of way. Rather, he lingers in a murky, gray area that will keep you questioning, at least for a while. The fact that in general the characters are not portrayed as "wholly good" or "wholly bad" helps to round them out and make them more realistic.
And the Aussie slang used certainly lends an air of authenticity to the setting. (But what I don't get: what do Australians have against redheads?)
Best aspect: the relationship between Daisy and Roman. Yes, it is strained through much of the book, but when it isn't, I really enjoyed their easy friendship and the fact that Daisy could be herself around Roman. I can definitely root for a friends-turned-more romantic storyline, and wanting to see whether Daisy and Roman would finally get together was a good part of what kept me reading (that, and wondering whether Daisy would ever smarten up.) I did think, though, that the problems between them are drawn out too long. It basically takes the whole book before things get resolved, and it clocks in at 471 pages!
It was a nice change seeing a fairly "normal" family in a YA book, since so often really dysfunctional families are featured. In particular, Daisy's interactions with her three older brothers were fun to read about. (I don't have any brothers, older or younger, so that was fun for me!) I also liked seeing Daisy's friendships with Sarah and Shana take off and get a bit of time in the spotlight.
If I could change something... it would be the writing. Having taken several editing courses, I actually found it kind of painful to read at times. There are punctuation and grammar issues throughout, problems with switching tense randomly, cheesy dialogue in places, and very weird, awkward expressions used that may make you go, "What exactly does this mean?" The writing suffers from an overabundance of semi-colons and an under-appreciation of commas, along with a marked preference for the word "cheeky." Plus, the humour in there by and large just didn't work for me. I'm not sure if it's just not my style or what, but Daisy would laugh at something and I'd be going, "What's so funny?"
I thought that Daisy's voice sometimes felt very inauthentic for her age. It was uneven throughout — sounding realistically teenage in one section, too young in another, and then seeming far too mature (this last happened especially when she came to "realizations" about her past actions and attitudes.)
Just one more thing I want to mention: maybe it's just me, but at times I felt the tone was sort of old-fashioned and moralistic. Some of the messages the author was trying to send come off too heavy-handed and obvious, as though it's being pointed out to the reader that Daisy is growing up.
In that moment it was like I became deaf. It hit me hard and fast with such force that I literally couldn't hear anymore. My voice followed; I could see their lips moving, but I couldn't answer them if I wanted to. My vision blurred at the shock of the scene before me.
Legs aching, I turned and broke into a run. Not far away, Skye stood smiling at me with the crew from Addison Grammar. They turned to watch me in slow motion, smug indifference in their eyes, their lips slightly curled at the edges. So they knew.
Note: this book contains some mature sexual content.
This book counts towards my goal for the Just Contemporary reading challenge.
The author has generously offered 2 ebook copies of Friendship on Fire as a giveaway! If you'd like to be entered to win, please leave a comment on this post with your e-mail address. The giveaway will end on Mar. 31 at 11:59 pm EST.