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Keep the Ends Loose by Molly Campbell

My rating: 2 of 5

ebook, 257 pages
Young Adult
Published Feb 24th 2015 by Fiction Studio Books
Available on: Kindle, Paperback

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What they say:

Warm, funny, and uniquely perceptive, KEEP THE ENDS LOOSE is an irresistible novel filled with characters you might recognize – and will not forget

What I have to say:

The pretty cover and the blurb give you an idea of a lovely and sentimental coming of age story about a girl helping her aunt. Who can resist a story like that? Not me. I had to check it out.

The opening paragraph “got me at hello!”:

“Have you ever heard of a guy named Proust? He was an insanely famous writer. Get this: he wrote about his boring life. I figure that if Proust could do it, so can I. So let me tell you about my Aunt Iris.”

Who can resist a 15-year-old who knows about Proust and talks about him with sense of humor? Not me!

Keeping the Ends Loose is the story of Mandy, a 15-year-old girl in junior high, a bookworm who would prefer life in another era; a late blooming, smart, old-soul who would rather “float around somewhere in between Jane Austen and Harry Potter, instead of some dystopian place where you have to cook up some meth in order to afford medical treatment.” Mandy is a girl with big dreams of leaving her town and moving to New York or Toronto to have a career. She is also a girl who fears sex and has no interest and time for sexting, nude selfies, etc. Yes, this is our main character.

Mandy lives with her parents, her brother. Other important characters in her life are her “statuesque, tall, willowy and graceful” Aunt Iris and her best friend Barley (yes, that’s her name). Mandy’s world was OK until one day her mom talks to her about her Aunt Iris being in love and unable to marry her new love interest because she hasn’t divorced Frank, the guy she married back when she was in college, a man who just disappeared into thin air. Her mother tells her, that they have to do something to find Frank, so Iris can divorce him and move on with her life.

And so we read about Mandy and what she does to fulfill this “noble” cause in favor of her beloved Aunt Iris. What Mandy doesn’t know, is that this quest will lead her to uncover hidden secrets in her mother’s life that affect her once happy family and turn her world into a total dysfunctional crazy one.

The premise of the story is a good one. This book had everything to be one of those powerful lesson filled books. But sadly it was not executed in a good way. It had its good moments, it had some humor, but it also lacked power, and felt contradictory and annoying at times. I’m sorry to say this was not irresistible, I didn’t recognize or relate to any of the characters and this was not an unforgettable life-changing story. This was only an OK read, nothing more.

My main problem with the book was the main character. I wasn’t expecting an adult disguised as a teen, we all know teens have so many layers to them. But Mandy sounded like a teen from those Nickelodeon shows. And I don’t mean this as a compliment. I don’t mean it as an insult either, but sometimes she was just too dumb. She didn’t behave like a 15-year-old but a younger little girl. This is a big problem because the target audience for this book will have a hard time relating to the main character, which in turn won’t motivate them to engage in the story.

The other thing that bothered me was that I signed up for a story about a girl helping her aunt; instead I got a story about an irrational, immature mother, who made huge mistakes in her youth and chose an inappropriate way to reveal them and clean her conscience. This woman was not fit to be a mom. Anyone understands when someone needs to face people in their past in order to come clean and make amends. But in my opinion, this woman made an even bigger mistake when she dragged her kids in her quest. She didn’t have to take the kids with her. Yes, they were going to be affected by the situation but the damage could’ve been less if instead she put on her grown up panties and face and fix her past by herself. And that intervention on a 4th of July BBQ in front of all the neighbors? That was too eye-rolling, facepalming, disturbing and irritating.

There’s also a double standard in terms of the messages the author wants to communicate to teens:

1.-Giving the main character a fear of sex, gives the message to teens to stay away from it but at the same time, this 15-year-old drinks beer in front of her dad, and what’s worse is that she has her dad’s approval, giving the message that it’s OK for teens to get drunk when the going gets rough.

2.-The author writes that it’s not OK for kids to judge their parents (or anyone)  for their mistakes:

Do you feel so perfect that you can place judgment on your mother for a mistake she made when she was just about at the age you are now?

but then it’s OK to think of them as stupid

Here’s the thing about parents: you think they’re stupid, but at the same time you expect them to be wise.

3.-Let’s get back to the sex fear the MC has. In the end, she still fears sex but decides she will have sex for the following logical reasons:

We have to experience things. High School is for that. You don’t want to go to college all virginal and unwordly, do you? How can you write a screen play if you haven’t really done anything?

Fear of sex or not, the virginity may have to go. I have mixed feelings still. I will just keep an open mind.

Hello? Am I the only one who sees double standards here?!?!?!?!

Despite all of this, I kept reading because the conflict had a promising solution. I hoped the book would leave me with an uplifting message. But it only left me feeling like it was too long of a story for a: Shit Crap Life happens, move on lesson. I mean read the final message:

There is no magic wand. No perfect saying that will make everything right again. You can go to the library and check out every single self-help book on the shelves, but they won’t tell you anything different. When terrible things happen, we just have to go on. That’s the truth of the matter.

Come on! We need to give teens some hope. I’m not saying we should sugar coat their lives and minds with lies, but one of the reasons teens read books is to find stories that help them cope with their woes. Why can’t we show them there’s a light at the end of every tunnel? Teens already know they must go on. We need to give them examples of how they can go onClick to Tweet this

I can’t see a teen feeling uplifted or inspired by this story. This book will not leave teens with a sense of closure but with their ends loose.

Needless to say, I don’t see a movie coming out of this YA book. I don’t know who I could recommend this book to. I went ahead and read five 5-star reviews of this book on Goodreads to see who could like this book. They were very succinct reviews from what teenagers would call “old people”. It’s ironic that a book whose target audience is the young adult audience is loved by full grown adults. Friends of the author maybe? You never know with reviews nowadays. These reviews made me feel like these people read a completely different book from the one I read.

So based on this and on my honest experience reading the book, I don’t recommend this book for young adults. I would recommend it to adults, as a book to learn what crappy parenting is; in hopes that they don’t even dare to imitate the bad parenting done by the “adults” in this book.

SPOILER-ish P.S. Remember how I said at the beginning how cool I thought a 15-year-old who knows about Proust was? Well, the final blow to dislike this MC was that in the end, it turned out she hadn’t even read “that book about the cookie”. 😦

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  • maelstrom noun A situation in which there are a lot of confused activities, emotions, etc.


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I received an Electronic copy of this book but was not financially compensated in any way nor obliged to review. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my personal experience while reading it. This post contains affiliate links as stated in my disclosure policy.