Life is funny sometimes.
And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer.
I'm trying to be strong for my friends and my mom.
And I'm trying so hard to be "just friends" with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won't do that to him. He's been through this before with his family, and I'm not going to let him watch me die.
So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don't cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
I could practically smell the nervous sweat under my pits as I peeked out from behind the curtains at the packed house. Porter Township High School had a brand-new theater where we'd been invited to perform tonight in the Comedy Mash-Up. It was a gorgeous space with a shiny wood stage and rows of red velvet seats that were currently filled with the butts of one hundred and eighty high school students.
Maneuvering from center stage through the darkness of the wings to the backstage area, I took a seat on the ratty couch that must have hosted at least seven generations of drama geek tears and farts. It was comforting to know that even if Porter's improv group, Scared Scriptless, had a theater that was newer and shinier than ours, it still featured the obligatory disgusting backstage area. I carefully set down the reusable water bottle with our team's mascot swimming around in it.
"Aye, Captain Ellie!" Quinn shouted in her best pirate voice as she ran through the backstage. She jumped into the seat next to me, releasing an explosion of cushion-fluff. "This is so exciting. Did you see how many people are in the audien — you ... you brought Harold?" She pointed to the goldfish.
Spontaneous Combustion had named our group's mascot Harold after the most well-known improvisational form, the "Harold," created by Del Close from the iO Theater in Chicago. Since our school was in a suburb just outside of Chicago, we took pride in the fact we were born near some of the most famous improv theaters in the country — iO, Second City, the Annoyance Theater. Harold was our shout-out to that. As co-captain, it was now my job to take care of him, and in the first two weeks of school, I'd come to the conclusion that goldfish were highly underrated pets.
"Yeah, for our first show of the year, I made up a new policy that we'll bring Harold wherever we perform. For good luck. Right, lil' guy?" I pressed my finger to the side of the bottle, and he swam up, his tiny mouth making happy bubbles.
"What does your co-captain think of that?" Quinn raised her eyebrows, her eyes reminding me more than ever of a slow loris — those weird monkey creatures whose eyeballs take up a disproportionate amount of their face — but in a hazel, pretty-girl kind of way.
"Think of what? Endangering the life of goldfish?" Hana, the other co-captain, asked in her staccato way as she cracked open a can of fizzy tangerine juice and shrugged. "I'm cool with it."
"I just know you two will be great as our new captains." Quinn squealed and pulled me in for a hug. She waved Hana in, but Hana, not a hugger, chugged some of her drink and then belched at Quinn in defense.
I laughed. I loved Hana. She'd moved to Northglenn the summer before high school, but after being the only two freshmen cast in Spontaneous Combustion, it felt like we'd known each other our whole lives. I'd finally found a friend I could totally relate to. It didn't hurt that we lived on the same side of town — the ugly-apartment-complexes side, me in Glenshire Cove, and Hana in The Regency. "Such glamorous names for such humble little hovels," Hana loved to say.
"Ew," Quinn said as she released me from her love/death-grip.
With sweet Harold safe, providing us his goldfish good luck from his spot in the wings, we joined the other five members of our group onstage to get ready for the show.
As Hana and Quinn took their turns peeking out through the curtains, Quinn asked, "How did Scared Scriptless manage to get such a big turn out?"
"For starters, I imagine they don't use our group's zero-advertising marketing strategy," I said.
"Mmm." Hana was rubbing her cheek on the plush curtain, her eyes closed. "I want to steal this theater and put it in my bedroom so I can wake up on these golden floorboards snuggled in these velvety curtains every morning. Can I do that?"
"I believe in you." I smiled and clapped my hands together once. "Okay, we're about to start, let's get the group circled up."
"We're ready for this." Hana released the curtain and turned to us, looking more like a warrior than an improviser. "This place is awesome. We're gonna wreck some faces tonight." She gave Quinn a chest bump and then graced me with one.
"Ow," Quinn and I said in unison.
Hana Yoon: a Chihuahua who thought she was a pit bull. She had all the makings of an all-star athlete, minus the small details of her pint-size body and zero athletic ability. Amping up before performances was how she unleashed her competitive spirit, even if our improv show wasn't technically a competition.
The lights in the theater dimmed as the music swelled. Over the music, a guy in the sound booth announced our group. "Welcome to Porter Township High School's Friday night Comedy Mash-Up! Pleeease put your hands together and welcome our guests for the evening, Northglenn High's SPONTANEOUUUUUUS COMBUSTION!"
As the red curtains parted, I could practically feel our collective stomachs flip.
Hana gave our group's standard spiel. "Tonight, we'll be doing a short-form style of improv similar to the TV show 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' We'll get suggestions from you in the audience and create instant scenes based on your suggestions. Are you ready?"
The audience cheered, and we launched into our first scene. Our show clicked along as we played our favorite games of Arms Expert, Broadway Musical, and Replay. Hana and I traded off between emceeing, playing, and guiding our team from the wings.
Toward the end of our thirty-minute set, we started our last game and invited Scared Scriptless to play with us. In the game of Freeze, two players do a scene until someone on the sidelines yells "Freeze," then the players have to hold whatever pose they were in. Another actor tags one person out, takes on the same position but starts an entirely new scene that justifies that starting position. It continues as people call out "Freeze" and start new scene after new scene.
At one point, I was onstage with Chris, a massive guy who used to be on the football team. He was carrying me around completely tipped on my side as he shouted about finding "the lost statue," when someone from Scared Scriptless yelled, "Freeze!"
A boy from the other team ran up to tag one of us out, which meant I would soon either have to hold a stranger or be held by a stranger. Fantastic. The Porter boy was thin, but through his navy-blue T-shirt that read Scared Scriptless in a bold font, his chest and shoulders had a nice amount of oomph. Before I got a good look at his face, he disappeared behind me.
He tagged Chris out. They exchanged spots, while I tried to hold my statue position on my side with one hand on my hip and one hand under my head, elbows out. Chris's large forearm left my waist and was replaced by a tan, leaner version. This wrist sported one of those wristbands for a cause, which nestled up to ... Well, I'd have to describe it as the sexiest watch I'd ever seen — which was odd, since I'd never considered them sexy before. In fact, I was pretty sure I never used the word "sexy" to describe anything, except while being sarcastic (like when Hana jokingly made-out with her pudding cup at lunch and had brown goop all around her mouth I said, "Real sexy, Hana.").
As the boys continued to shift my weight for the pass, I let myself dwell on Porter Boy's watch — the thickness of the black leather band, the shininess of the silver face. The word "manly" came to mind. His thumb ever-so slightly grazed the bottom of my left breast as he took complete hold of me. Fortunately, I didn't have time to worry about it because he had started the scene.
Even though Porter Boy had proven he was confident physically carrying me, his character pretended to be awkward and shifted me back and forth while stuttering and umming.
The experienced improviser in me pushed past the inner freak-out all his touching was causing and reacted to his offer. I wiggled out of his clutches, and we faced each other, our eyes connecting for a second. His were a pleasing shade of brown — earthy but bright. When our gaze broke, the coolest thing happened. We both started doing the same thing at the same time: brushing each other off and saying things like, "ooh, sorry," and "err, excuse me ..." We entered into some abstract game with each other.
Turning him around so his back was to me, I tapped him between his shoulder blades. As if reading my mind, he immediately fell back into my arms. I didn't know why I needed him to do that, or how he knew to do it, only that is was supposed to happen next in our weird game. I easily caught him and dragged him backwards. Our characters were in some alternate universe where they had to get somewhere but only one person could do the transporting at a time.
Sure, it made no sense whatsoever, but that was the glory of improv, and the audience loved it. Despite the bizarreness, Porter Boy and I were so committed that every new position — me getting a piggyback ride, him on my back like I was a horse — caused the audience to laugh harder.
Porter Boy pretended to come upon a stream. He mimed testing the water and then lay down in the imaginary stream and patted his chest, signaling me to climb on top of him. I gathered I was supposed to lie on top of him like he was a raft, so that's what I did. Putting my hands on either side of his shoulders, I lowered myself down like I was doing a slow push up. His breath. So much heat. The swish-rush-thump of his blood through his heart.
Then reality hit.
From the outside, it must have looked like a weird improv girl about to lie right on top of a strange boy. Onstage. In front of almost two hundred people.
We had been doing near-acrobatics for the past two minutes. Snippets popped into my mind — entangled arms, wrapped legs, arched backs. My brain processed the building energy of the audience, the rising laughter, the hoots and whistles, and I realized our scene must have looked like an epic dry-humping session.
Mortification enveloped me, like all the naked, peeing nightmares of childhood but without the happy escape of waking. I feared this might be one of those shuddery life-moments to etch a forever-home on my memory's instant-cringe list.
And yet. The rare connection, the out-of-body-ness ... I understood what it felt like to be in the moment. I also knew there was "in the moment," focused but aware, and really in the moment, where everything outside the scene slipped away. It was what I'd read about in all our improv books — like some Holy Grail of improvisation. But I hadn't known it was possible to totally "lose your mind" and be completely in the moment. Now I did, and it was fun.
If only it could have happened in private.
But it hadn't. And we were still in it — I was hovering perilously close to his face, as all this flashback processed in the embarrassment quadrant of my brain in an instant. I made the mistake of looking him in the eyes.
Our faces were so close. His lips formed a shy grin on one side, revealing a single, irresistible, dimple. We cracked up, and I released the rest of my weight onto him in a fit of nervous laughter, my head falling in the crook between his neck and shoulder. My nose informed me I had a new favorite smell. As he brushed off some of my hair that had fallen in his face, his arm mashed against me in a nice and only slightly suffocating kind of way, and he shouted, "Will someone please yell freeze already?" Someone from the audience yelled, "No! We're waiting for you to do it."
"Yeah!" the whole audience agreed in unison.
And then they chanted, "Do it! Do it! Do it!"
Oh my God. It hit me that I was, in fact, still laying on top of him. Super speedily I stopped sniffing him like some crazed wildebeest and jumped up, only to be left standing downstage, caught and bewildered, a flush of embarrassment crying out like a face tattoo.
I decided I really should quit improv.
It would make life so much easier.
Finally, Quinn rescued me by yelling, "Freeze!" and tapping Porter Boy out. Spontaneous Combustion had been asking for the guest improvisers' names, so as Quinn came to tag-out Porter Boy, she did the same.
"Everyone, please give Jason a big round of applause." And with that, Jason waved sheepishly and ran down the stage steps to sit back with the rest of Scared Scriptless.
My scene with Porter Boy — Jason — was all I could think about during my next scene with Quinn. People were laughing, but I was going through the motions, still reeling inside. Fortunately, I was saved from trying to get through another scene when Hana said, "And freeze! Thank you. That's our show."
She let the audience clap a bit, then Spontaneous Combustion took our bows, and she shouted, "We'd like to thank Scared Scriptless for inviting us to play here tonight. Now, please give a big welcome to Porter's own: Scared Scriptless!"
Spontaneous Combustion took our seats in the front row of the theater as Scared Scriptless took the stage. My heart seemed to beat louder than the music that started up again.
A tall guy with curly hair and glasses who introduced himself as Owen addressed the audience. "Thanks, Spontaneous Combustion. Before we start our set, Scared Scriptless has an exciting announcement." Owen got mock-serious and made his voice low, rumbling into the microphone he was holding. "We were recently approached by some people who are a pretty big deal." He popped his words into the mic. "These comedy VIPs want to hold a contest right here." He pointed to the wood floor. "I'm talking about none other than your favorite online source for comedy. That's right — drum roll please ... "
From the side of the stage, all the members of Scared Scriptless made drum roll sounds with their mouths or with their hands hitting against their thighs.
"This is big. Are you ready?" The audience cheered. Owen held the microphone a few inches from his face as he yelled, "Comedy Hub! Did you hear me? Comedy Hub. Here at Porter Township High School, Comedy Hub will be hosting a huge Comedy Contest for college-bound seniors from all over the Chicagoland area. The competition is only six weeks from today, on October thirteenth. Yes, it will be on Friday the thirteenth, but don't fear. It'll be someone's lucky day." Owen's pale skin turned splotchy red with the force of his screaming and excitement as his lanky limbs gesticulated wildly.
"The main part of the competition is a standup competition where the grand-prize winner will receive five hundred dollars. The winner will also ..." Owen inhaled deeply, then raised his free hand above his head as he shouted, "have his or her set featured on Comedy Hub dot com." The audience became even crazier. I was really glad he chose to save this announcement until after our set.
I stole as many looks at Jason during Owen's speech as I could. He had a habit of running his hand through his hair to keep it out of his eyes. Lucky hand.
Owen continued pacing around the stage like a panther, unable to contain his enthusiasm. "There's even more. In addition to the standup competition, there will also be a sketch category, with each member of the winning sketch team — another drum roll is needed, guys ..." Scared Scriptless provided another, louder drum roll sound effect for Owen. "One hundred dollars each for up to five members. Can you believe it?" He wiped his now-sweaty forehead while the audience continued to cheer. "The details were just posted to Scared Scriptless's website. Okay," — all through the audience phones lit up — "back to your previously scheduled show. Scared Scriptless will now do a different style of improv from what you just saw. We do a longform called the Harold and we need one suggestion to get us started."
Hana leaned over to me. "Ooh, here's your chance to try standup like you've always wanted."
"What are you talking about? I've never written a joke in my life."
"But you could. I've seen the way you watch it — like you're studying."
I shook off the idea. "I don't have anything interesting to write about. And even if I did, I'd be up against people who've probably, you know, done it before."
"Since when has standup been about something interesting? Usually it's about nothing."
"Okay fine, you do it then."
"Solo at the mic is not my style. And, I've got to focus on rustling up some assistant directing or producing opportunities before the ol' college apps are due. Can't prove to anyone I'm supposed to be in charge if I'm not in charge of anything," Hana said.
Excerpted from "A Messy, Beautiful Life"
Copyright © 2017 Sara Jade Alan.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One of the best books I have read.
This book rolled so many emotions into one. Loved it
I thoroughly enjoyed this whole book. I don’t know much, if anything about improvisational comedy, or stand up comedy, and I loved that Ellie was so involved in it. I’ve always loved going to improv shows or to see stand up comics perform. I really enjoyed seeing a part of what goes on behind the scenes of shows. I thought the story as a whole flowed wonderfully and made me not want to put the book down. I thought this was going to be “just another book where the main character has cancer”, which is honestly why I requested it. I don’t know why, but I’m very interested in these types of books. I found right away that this wasn’t going to be that typical type of book. Ellie was such a wonderful main character who had such a great sense of humor. I will say the reason I didn’t give the book 5 stars is because the book contains *gasp* insta-love. I just can’t handle instal-love in books and this one was quite typical. Luckily all of the other character relationships made up for this. I found myself laughing way more than I expected to while reading, but didn’t make light of the situations, which takes talent. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of The Fault in Our Stars, Me Earl and the Dying Girl, Zac & Mia, and Side Effects May Vary. I personally found this book on par or even more enjoyable than those books I just mentioned. I also can’t finish this review without mentioning how absolutely stunning the cover of this book is!
“A Messy, Beautiful Life” tossed my emotions around like a clothes dryer, wrung them, flipped them upside down, and tossed them out. It’s a book about cancer, but not at all like any of the other books you probably had pop into your mind. Everything about it feels so real. I felt their joy and their pain, and I am not ashamed to admit that I cried like a baby. Highly recommended! This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
This book is INCREDIBLY AMAZING. How can something so upsetting and heartbreaking be so full of life and laughter?! Dealing with cancer will never be easy. I knew going into this book that I would get very emotional. I was so ready to bawl my eyes out, but instead of crying till my eyes swelled up, I actually laughed…A LOT. I mean there were plenty of tears involved, but A Messy, Beautiful Life filled my heart with so much hope and joy. By the end, I just wanted to give everyone I love a big hug and never let go. It’s actually been a few days since I finished reading this book and I still haven’t stopped thinking about everything that’s happened. I LOVEEEE this book so much…SO MUCH that I know this will be one of my top ten favorite reads in 2017. The cover is ridiculously gorgeous. The title is utterly perfect. The writing is exceptional and the story… it’s so so BEAUTIFUL and I just can’t get over all the FEELS. I absolutely love Ellie and Jason. Ellie is a fantastic character. She’s loving and caring. She’s extremely talented, hilarious and witty. She’s also very strong, inspiring and so full of life that I wanted to be around her. I just love that girl so much and rooted for her the entire time. Jason… this guy will always have a special place in my heart. He’s charming and sweet. He’s the perfect gentleman and I fell so hard for him. Watching these two interact together is really fun! Their chemistry is simply amazing. I love all the cute flirting, playful bantering, sexy kisses, and tender moments between them. Their romance is just so adorable, and swoony and will make your heart so full of happy. The other characters are wonderful and I adore them to pieces. Ellie’s stepbrother, Craig, is very thoughtful, caring, and awesome. He makes me heart melt into a puddle of goo and I just love him. Ellie’s mom is just the BEST and I want to hug her! The mother-daughter dynamic/bond is definitely goals. Hana and Quinn are totally kick ass and the most amazing best friends ever. The relationships between the characters are just so great! I don’t want to give too much away, but there is seriously so much love in this book. Not to mention the characters are well-developed, genuine, and believable. A Messy, Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan is a lovely story about learning to find humor in life despite dealing with something really terrible. It’s riveting, deeply affecting, and very inspiring. While some parts are heartbreaking and just really sad, this book is also filled with so many fun, hilarious, and heartwarming moments that will make you smile and laugh out loud. Everything about this book is just so achingly beautiful. I honestly love this story with all my heart and can’t recommend it enough. Alan’s writing is phenomenal and I truly cannot wait to read whatever she writes next! P.S. - Ranma ½ is the BEST and one of my favorites! I used to watch that anime with my brother when we were young. Definitely got nostalgic and made me miss those days. I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Who would have thought that a book about a girl with Cancer would be funny? Not me. When I read the description of the book I was intrigued and new I wanted to read this. I needed to know what happened to Ellie and the guy that she wants to be “just friends” with. Ellie is a part of her improv group at school, and on a night they are invited to participate in a show at another school where she meets Jason, a member of the other school’s improv team. After the show Ellie and her friends are invited to a party at Jason’s house and the invite is reiterated when Ellie runs into Jason at the beach. It’s during this party that Ellie has an accident that lands her in the hospital where she finds out she has a rare form of cancer in her leg. The events that follow her diagnosis lead us through a great story of love, family and friendship and how people are drawn together in a crisis. One of the things I liked most about this story was the relationships that Ellie had, with not only Jason, but with her friends and her step-brother. Even when Ellie tried to push them away they stayed and fought right beside her. They refused to let her go through any of it on her own, especially Jason. All in all this was a great read, funny when it needed to be, and serious when it was supposed to be.
I loved the humor, the sweet romance, and the life changes in this book. Definitely recommend it to anyone.
5 A MESSY, BEAUTIFUL LIFE STARS!! This book was fantastic it had all the feels from laughing out loud to crying. The story is so beautifully written, Sara Jade Alan did a fabulous job. I loved Ellie, she was the perfect character. I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.
I admit I was a bit wary of this one. Novels that tackle serious illness can easily fall into mawkishness. I’m happy to report A Messy, Beautiful Life is not one of them. Yes, main character Ellie is diagnosed with cancer, but whereas some stories would then veer into saccharine clichés and overly sentimental tropes, Sara Jade Alan managed to avoid those traps and instead deliver a story that is funny, honest and equal parts heart-breaking and heart-warming. High school senior Ellie is co-captain of an improv group and it’s during a performance that she meets Jason. The chemistry is immediate and when Ellie sees him again at a party the sparks fly and she’s pretty sure the feeling is mutual. But the night is derailed when a fall lands her in the hospital and all of a sudden doctors are throwing around words like scans, MRI and biopsy. And then the diagnosis: cancer. Ellie was a character that was easy to admire. Even before her diagnosis I appreciated her can-do attitude and her close relationships with her friends and her mom. And after the diagnosis I admired her even more. Yes, she usually tried to be strong for her mom and friends but Ellie was no martyr. She was afraid, she cried, she questioned ‘why me?’ and railed against the unfairness of it. She struggled with her relationship with her father as well as her growing feelings for Jason. She liked him and felt better when he was around, but was it fair to ask him to see her through such a difficult time? Ellie was surrounded by an amazing support group and I loved the encouragement and comfort they each provided. Her mother was present and involved and I appreciated how they seemed to be very much a team while still maintaining their mother-daughter roles. Her girlfriends were priceless (not a mean girl in sight!) and always there to lend a shoulder to cry on, make her laugh, and just generally be some of the best friends ever. I also loved seeing the relationship between Ellie and her step-brother Craig develop into a truly caring and supportive bond. My quibbles are few. First, there were times when the dialogue between Ellie and her friends didn’t ring true for me. Their banter sometimes felt forced and not realistic given their ages (do seventeen year olds actually know what Toastmasters is?). Secondly, the school yoga teacher/counselor seemed a bit over the top New Age-y and had I been sent to see her as a high school student I think she would have seemed more oddball than helpful. A Messy, Beautiful Life was filled with humor and heart and brought me to tears more than once, not only with empathy for what Ellie was facing but also when my heart was warmed by the show of love and support. I encourage readers to pick this one up and experience Ellie’s resilience and humor for themselves.
3 Stars Ellie is comically talented, has great friends, and on the verge of a new romance. Her life is starting to look up until it's discovered that she has a rare form of cancer. This book sees Ellie through that diagnosis, the research, and her potential treatment. All this, while also dealing with familial issues and a new romance. A Messy, Beautiful Life had a unique premise and creative back drop (improv) to the main story line. I found it to be compelling and finished it within a day. Unfortunately, what I found most compelling didn't make for a 5 star read. While the story has a consistent romance and medical thread throughout the book, it was the type and treatment of the cancer that I found most interesting - a rare form of bone cancer. To it's detriment, the story was full of YA romance/drama clichés and more telling than showing. All that made it difficult to connect to Ellie and her POV. Also, I found the inst-love romance difficult to grasp. I'm willing to suspend belief in Ya when it comes to romance, because, you know, teenager and all, but ultimately, there wasn't enough discourse between Ellie and Jason before they fell "head-over-heels." Jason was interesting and I enjoyed his tenacious and empathetic character, but mostly the characters felt somewhat one dimensional. Overall, I found A Messy, Beautiful Life (at times) intriguing and readable. I would have rated it higher if there was more character development, a believable pace to the romance, and more showing/less telling. (This is my voluntary and honest review of an advanced copy via Entangled Teen/Netgalley)
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review A Messy Beautiful Life by Sara Jade Alan. The story begins with theater students putting on a show with another school and describing how much fun the improv acts turned out. I kind of wish I could have been in that audience. Later, Ellie and her stepbrother Craig head to the beach and then to a house party after being invited by Jason, the guy who acted out improv with Ellie at the show. That’s how Ellie and Jason met, an improv performance. While Ellie is walking to a fire with Jason at the party, she falls and ends up at the hospital and everyone thinks she’s broken her leg. When her mom, Craig and her friends Hana and Quinn are visiting with Ellie in her hospital room, the doctor informs Ellie that she has cancer. I love how people rally around Ellie and how she keeps her attitude as upbeat as possible. The school counselor is fantastic, Ellie’s mom is amazing and Craig is the best stepbrother ever. The author’s note describes her own battle with cancer and her involvement with improv and the similarities she has with her character Ellie and just like Ellie, she had many people show true support when she needed it most. This heartwarming story is enjoyable to read and is full of endearing characters! 5 stars for this young adult realistic fiction! *I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
The two aspects that inspired me to read Sara Jade Alan's A Messy, Beautiful Life? The cover and title of course! Both were incredibly eye-catching, and there's just something so relatable in the tittle because life IS messy AND beautiful! The result? Equal parts witty, relatable, and poignant, A Messy, Beautiful Life explores what makes a life worth living when the world seems to be completely and utterly against you. A Messy, Beautiful Life introduces us to Ellie, just your everyday high school student. She loves her best friends, she finds her step brother infuriating, and she hopes that the boy she's just meet likes her as much as she likes him....normal, right? What's not normal, however, is the pain she's been feeling...the pain that turns out to be none other than a rare form of cancer. I found Ellie's voice to be raw, fresh, and captivating. There was just something so utterly real about her, and that's what broke my heart even more when she received her diagnosis. Here's this girl that's never done anything wrong - just done her best to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student - but's been handed one of the worst cards in life possible. However, unlike most people, Ellie's never lets it get her down too much. Sure, she has moments where she cries her eyes out, but Ellie also never once stops living. I admired that greatly about her. I admired the fact that she got right on those crutches and made them work, that she allowed herself to still open up to the boy she liked, and that she even began to rely on and put trust in the person she never thought she would - her annoying yet weirdly sweet step brother. She may have been given a horrible diagnose, but it also gave her the right push to "grow up" and have a memorable coming-of-age. A Messy, Beautiful Live tackles a lot - the many meanings the word 'family' can have, the high that comes from falling in love for the first time, learning to deal with the hard stuff in life, and having a hobby that is so completely your thing. While some books can't always handle such a high array of topics, A Messy, Beautiful Life managed to do the impossible - make the topics well developed and unique. One of my favorite topics of this book was family....over the course of A Messy, Beautiful Life, Ellie takes on an interesting family dynamic, as her mother, step-brother, and friends form her support group while her dad and step-mom are often no where to be found. While her dad's involvement angered me at times, I liked that Sara showed that a family doesn't have to be blood - that sometimes the people who aren't blood related are the ones who will stick up for you the most, no matter the cost. I especially loved the relationship that formed between Ellie and her step-brother. It included the typical sibling love/hate thing, but it worked so well for the book. The one area of this book, though, that brought it down a few steps in my eyes was the romance. Okay, Jason was a great guy, especially when he would drop everything to be by Ellie's side...but sometimes he was just TOO PERFECT. Honestly, I don't think this guy had one breakdown/freakout the entire book, and while part of me would live to live in an ideal world like that, it's hard to accept that a boy, especially someone who's new to Ellie's, live would be so willing to be so utterly charming and perfect when life is just so messy. Regardless, A Messy, Beautiful Life is well worth a read.
Ellie is a member of an improv theater group and, when she meets Jason, a member of a rival improv group, they form an immediate connection. With some new friends and a huge comedy competition coming up, things are looking good, but a freak accident brings Ellie crashing down - quite literally. What happens next will break your heart into little pieces and then put it back together again. Ellie's story is based on the author's own experiences in battling chondrosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The author states that "the upside of tragedy is that it can be transformed into art." And that is exactly what she has done. "A Messy, Beautiful Life" is a touching account of a young girl's experience with cancer at a time when she should be fully living her life. The story is so good that I forgot to take notes, but I loved Ellie as well as her support group of Jason, her friends, her mother, and especially her stepbrother Craig. Cute and funny and sad. Don't miss this one. I received this book in return for an honest review. Full blog post (2 October): https://booksdirectonline.blogspot.com/2017/10/a-messy-beautiful-life-by-sara-jade-alan.html