Saturday, June 15, 2013

Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys (Kate Brian)

This month's quick fix came courtesy of Kate Brian's Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys, an unassuming little read that was fun from start to finish.

The titular character is an army brat, shuttled to different places because of her parents' jobs. (Incidentally, this comes a week after my niece's best friend, herself an army brat, leaves for a different state.) Megan's parents are heading to South Korea and they give her a choice: come with them or stay stateside with her dad's best friend's family. Megan wants to complete the last two years of high school in one place, so she picks the latter. But it's not exactly the easiest of decisions, because the McGowans have seven boys. It's both a challenge and an education for only-child Megan, and even her sporty, tomboyish ways aren't enough to win over her new family. And that's not even counting her complicated crush on Evan.

(First off, I didn't quite get why Megan chooses to stay with the McGowans. Her argument against moving to South Korea is primarily fueled by her desire to stay in her current high school in Texas. I mean, if she still has to move either way, then why pick the strangers, right? Oh, I forgot... seven boys. Fine, I might just pick the same way, but I'm also much older and this would probably be highly inappropriate.)

Okay, now that I got that off my chest...

The book itself is a pretty good distraction from life's other surprises. It doesn't pretend to be more than it is and delivers a solid story about fitting in, family relations, and male-female relationships. The fish-out-of-water trope is used quite effectively. It also provides a good backdrop for all the issues that are tackled in the book. From dealing with resentful 'siblings' to challenging the high school queen bee to even befriending a person with Asperger's, the book introduces conflict that seem to grow organically given the story's unusual circumstances. What's more, Ms Brian knows how to resolve these issues. Even if there are plenty of them in the story, they don't seem too overwhelming and they're all addressed by the time you close the book.

Because I didn't see it mentioned in the book, here are the McGowan boys, according to their order of birth: Sean, Evan, Finn, Miller, Doug, Ian, and Caleb. Ms Brian gives each of the boys (well, save for the youngest two) distinct personalities so it isn't difficult for the reader to identify them.

Even with all these colorful characters around her, Megan holds her own. She's upfront and bullish, but she can also be caring and sensitive. She's an interesting lead who refuses to be overwhelmed by her situation -- most of the time. That said, the climax seemed completely unlike her. I understand that the drama was needed -- it is the climax, after all -- but her decision and the subsequent resolution both seemed weakly realized. Still, all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Despite its ups and downs, I admired the way the plot carries Megan from one challenge to another and encourages her to face them with her brand of tenacity and determination.

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