Title: This Ordinary Life
Author: Jennifer Walkup
Publisher: Luminis Books
Date of Publication: October 1, 2015
Sometimes Hope is the Most Extraordinary Gift of All.High-school radio host Jasmine Torres’s life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around.That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future.Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep her from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her.Jasmine can’t control everything. Not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health–not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but maybe what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Thank you to Luminis Books and The Fantastic Flying Book Club for the review copy. Receiving one did not affect my views of the novel.
Admittedly, the first thing that caught my attention about this book was its gorgeous cover. JUST LOOK AT IT. It’s glorious and there’s no way I wouldn’t be reading it. It screams cute and fun. Then when I read the blurb and found out that the heroine’s younger brother has epilepsy, I AM SO IN. I NEED THIS BOOK NOW. So I immediately signed up for the tour given the chance. And boy, I’m glad I did!
This Ordinary Life has Jasmine at its center, a radio DJ at her high school. We open with her hustling to get to school, as they have a field trip at the WYN60 radio station in New York. She’s a filial and responsible teen and here’s where we see that she basically raises her epileptic seven year-old brother Danny while her mom drowns herself in vodka. Elena, her mom, started drinking when her husband left them, and is now a functioning alcoholic. We immediately see how much Jasmine loves Danny but how tired she is of dealing with her mom. Her ride to school, her boyfriend Sebastian, is late so she hoofs it up to his house, only to find him with another girl. She promptly breaks up with him only to get a call that Danny had a seizure and that her mom didn’t see it right away because she slept again. She ditches her field trip altogether and stays with Danny in the hospital. And here is where she meets Wes, who’s also a patient.
The story behind that cute and fun cover is indeed cute and fun. We have Jasmine and Wes who are so adorable together. I love their flirty banter and how he earnestly and doggedly pursues Jasmine. Wes is sweet and THE NON-DATES HE PLANNED, can I go with him as well??? After being heartbroken, Jasmine isn’t too keen on trusting guys and being in a relationship right away, so while he did find Wes cute right away (WHO WOULDN’T?), I’m glad to appease you that their romance had a build-up with LOTS OF TEXTING. Ah, so cute.
But if you think this is all cutesy fun, you’re wrong. It’s not particularly heavy but if you have a loved one who has epilepsy or any disease actually, you’ll definitely relate and feel for Jasmine. I’ve went to EEGs with my sister, to MRIs, and to lots of doctor appointments. Jasmine’s experiences mirror so much of my own that I’m so grateful to Jennifer Walkup for writing this book. When Jasmine mentioned how the smell of the glue they use for all the wires during EEG, I literally smelled it. Reading this book made me remember my sister’s first few attacks and how we didn’t know what to do. How after each episode, she actually doesn’t know what happened and that all she remembers is being sleepy. Danny’s like that too and when I asked the author how she did her research, she’s actually caring for loved ones with epilepsy. So she was speaking from her own experience, that’s why it felt so authentic. I’m still hyper alert when it comes to my sister. I worry about her all the time. Sometimes she snorts from laughing and I’ll worry and check on her because she might be having an episode. I remember that time she just fell off her bed and had an episode and I jumped from the bunk bed and tended to her. Then when she woke up, she was wondering why she was sleeping on the floor. Then she cried because she realized she had an attack. I’m a bit teary eyed as I type this because living with epilepsy dampened my sister’s life. She couldn’t enjoy some things people take for granted for fear of having an attack. The trial period for the meds, the allergies, the steroids. It was hard on us but definitely harder on her. And she only has mild epilepsy and very rare attacks now (only when triggered by stress or lack of sleep so we avoid those) so I can only imagine how is it for those with the intense ones. My heart goes to everyone suffering from epilepsy and their families.
Anyway, I very much appreciated how Jennifer Walkup treated alcoholism as a disease too because it is. Also, brownie points for our girl Jasmine all around. Jasmine doesn’t back down and she is such a strong girl. She makes her mom change and she’s capable of forgiveness. She also respects herself and I love how Jennifer Walkup showed how by how strong Jasmine’s resolution is in not getting back together with Sebastian. She said it herself, that she respects herself too much to get back with an asshole cheater. Really, Jasmine is one of the most admirable characters I’ve read in YA right from the start. I love how much she loves Danny, how cool and awesome she was and her best friend Frankie, and just how well-adjusted she is. She’s really mature and awesome. Thus, character growth in here is quite minimal since she’s already amazing and I don’t have a problem with that.
Then, I got a look into radio broadcasting because of this! So yeah, Jasmine being a radio DJ was legitimately shown in the novel. She even thinks as if she’s on air and I love that about her. We see her in action A LOT and I love that so much. Sometimes in YA, we don’t get to see students actually studying or doing their extracurriculars so it’s nice when you come across one that shows it. In fact, it is so refreshing to read something that has never mentioned popularity in the entirety of the novel.
While Wes and Jasmine took their time before getting together, they sure make up to us all the lost opportunities for kisses. The last part of the novel were full of kissy scenes and Dianne is happy.
This Ordinary Life is a quick, cute, and fun read and I recommend it to fans of contemporary YA. It’s nothing dark and it’s a guaranteed good time. I look forward to more novels by Jennifer Walkup!
About Jennifer Walkup
Award-winning author Jennifer Walkup is most often found writing, reading, and spending time with her husband and young sons. A member of SCBWI and RWA, Jennifer also works as an editor and creative writing instructor, and is an advocate for Epilepsy awareness. This Ordinary Life is her second novel.
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