It's past time for another Canadian pick! (Full disclosure: I have met Eileen Cook (I took a writing course from her), and she is kind, funny, and down-to-earth. But it's not like she would even recognize me if she saw me again, so this review isn't biased by me trying to be nice to her or anything.)
One of the reasons I don't often read realistic teenager-having-social-problems novels is that I hate embarrassment. Obviously everyone hates being embarrassed, but from all the tv and book plots that use it, I have to assume that people enjoy watching other people be embarrassed. I don't. I hate it.
There are lots of potentially embarrassing moments in The Education of Hailey Kendrick, and I kept cringing as I turned the pages, waiting for the humiliation to heap up, but Cook kept surprising me. She sets Hailey up for all kinds of falls (some of them literal), but then the characters respond in atypical ways--complex, realistic, interesting ways, so that I was drawn more and more into the story instead of wanting to run away.
It's also really funny. Cook has a stand-up comedienne's insight into human psychology. She has all the typical character types: jock, it girl, charming guy, outsider--but then she subverts them by giving them all real motivations and emotions and making us care about them all, even the ones we don't like. The setting is a super-privileged boarding school, so it has a bit of Gossip Girl voyeurism, but, again, the characters are so real that they don't follow any of the rules for the typical rich kids plot. And Hailey's "education" is a true journey. At the beginning she thinks she has it all figured out, thinks she knows the rules and if she follows them she'll get what she wants, but then she breaks some rules, and when everything crashes down on her she realizes how flimsy it all is, and how much more is out there, "outside the lines."
It's a fun, light read that gave me far more than I was expecting. I read this one because I'd met the author; I'll read the next one because this one was so good. Strawberry peach scones from the Black Bean Roasting Company in Gibson's Landing. (Best scones anywhere.)
John Mutford's blog to find lots of other bloggers who have way more Canadian books for you to try!