Abram and Juliette know each other. They've lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don't really know each otherat least, not until Juliette's mom and Abram's dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don't speak.
Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a year later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite Juliette to Taco Bell.
To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.
|Publisher:||Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
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Finding Mr. Brightside
By Jay Clark
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2015 Jay Clark
All rights reserved.
THERE SHE IS, standing behind the counter: my CVS pharmacist, Mindy. We're on a first-name basis. Not sure how she feels about that, but the other day I hid inside the Starbucks bathroom for five minutes to avoid running into her, so ...
I walk up and slide my prescription toward Mindy's waiting hand, ignoring the sign reminding me not to forget this year's flu shot on purpose again.
Mindy picks up the paper, stares at it like we don't go through the same embarrassing routine every month.
"Let me check if I have this medication in stock."
She does—I called ahead but don't want to admit it, just watch as Mindy walks over to the safe where they keep all the stuff worth getting prescribed. She crouches down and practically folds herself over the front of it, paranoid I might memorize the combo as she punches it in. At best, she looks awkward. At worst, I've already memorized it—never know when things will get more desperate than they already are.
She walks back, tells me they have it, and starts typing my order into the computer. Frowning, she says, "Your insurance won't cover this until the end of the month."
"Really?" I say innocently. Went a little overboard on my daily dosage last week. After hesitating for what seems like an appropriate amount of time, I tell her I'll pay out of pocket and remove my sketchy online discount card from my purse. Mindy shoots me a conflicted expression that I'm not mentally equipped to help her feel better about. I have my own problems, clearly.
"When would you like to pick up your Adderall?" she practically bellows.
"Ten minutes, please," I say, my voice a sharp, pointy whisper.
Mindy pushes back the bangs she probably shouldn't have cut in the first place, wanting me to understand how heavy the burden I'm placing on her is. The store is empty. Mindy's going to be okay.
When we're almost finished with each other, a noise rings out from the aisle behind me—a bottle of pills dropping to the floor. We're not as alone as I thought. Nevertheless, I don't turn around. Why? So I can see someone I know? Or, worse, someone-I-know's mom? I look up toward the shoplifters-beware mirror mounted to the corner wall. Not liking what's reflecting back at me. At all.
I'm seeing a crown of wavy blond surfer-dude hair, droopy gray sweatpants, flip-flops. But it's the bewilderingly cute face, his face, and the watery-blue color of his eyes, which stir up feelings I haven't yet figured out how to compartmentalize.
For now, I give my brain tips like Stop it and I hate you. I'm still getting a faceful of Abram Morgan at CVS, on a Friday, at midnight, dropping a bottle of fish oil on the floor.
He places the bottle back on the shelf, mutters an apology to no one in particular, and walks away. Why is he here? Shouldn't he be playing tennis, or doing whatever Abram Morgan does on the weekends so I don't have to worry about seeing the waistband of his boxer briefs outside of eighth-period English?
I finish up with Mindy and then duck past the greeting cards into the most boy-repelling aisle I can find: the tampon section. Then I go one aisle past that one, because I just can't be that girl right now, even in hiding. Eyes lowered as far as they can go, I examine the boxes of hair color as if I'm in the market for a new hue that's destined to result in my best friend, Heidi, a genuinely nice person who could do a lot better for herself than the damaged goods I'm bringing to the table, throwing me a pity party and having to pretend it's just as fun as a regular party.
One of the hair models, a doll-like woman with an intentionally disheveled blond bob, looks eerily similar to my mother. Her lips are painted a deep red, her chin tilts upward like she's found a secret beauty ingredient bubbling forth from the fountain of youth, and wouldn't you like to buy what it is? A chill plays the piano down my spine.
I pick up the box—the last one on the shelf—and drop it quietly to the floor, sliding it underneath the bottom shelf with my worn-out running shoe. For a second I flash back to my mom in a hospital bed, eyes closed, face flawless and scratch-free, her brain the only injured part of her body. Even close to death, she looked very, very much alive.
My chest feels tight, and I can't breathe, and, new rule, no thinking about my mother on life support again for at least the rest of my days. Especially with Abram Morgan, a living reminder of who she'd become, nearby.
Then it hits me. Not another anxiety attack. Not anything close to inner peace. The Adderall I classily swallowed at the kitchen sink, before my two-mile jog over here? Unfortunately, that's it. The side effects are giving me a false sense of euphoric confidence that I could maybe, possibly, confront Abram Morgan, head-on, and "kill my frog," as my well-meaning father, a lifelong people-procrastinator himself, likes to preach but rarely leaves the house to practice.
Say I did walk over to Abram right now—how would I go about forcing casual conversation? Should I unzip my track jacket so he can get a clearer view of my protruding clavicles? Flirtatiously release my dry-shampooed hair from my extra-taut runner's bun, mid-sentence, to indicate how relaxed I'm not in his presence? Smile through the pain I've been distracting myself from by taking more than my fair share of ADHD pills?
I start searching for him, pretending I'm the silly-but-lovable blond heroine (addict) in a low-budget indie film I just made up. Working title: Prescription for Love. My character, a type-A smart girl with mom issues and a one-track mind, is completely unaware she's about to find a cute guy where she least expected, at CVS, while waiting for her refill. Prescription for Love has direct-to-DVD flop written all over it, but there's a Redbox conveniently located outside the entrance here, should anyone want to rent it after we're done filming.
There he is, in the candy section: Abram. Deep breath. I'll do my best to make the next scene more take-charge than outtake, but no promises, being that his father killed my mother a year ago.CHAPTER 2
I'm always amazed by what I discover at CVS while waiting for my antidepressant to get refilled. Colored pencils, dog treats, socks that'll improve my blood circulation—all of these items have found a home inside my little red basket.
What I didn't expect to find here tonight, at midnight especially, was Juliette Flynn, completing a transaction at the drop-off counter. I was staring at her, not-really-examining a bottle of burp-less fish oil, when I blew my cover and dropped the bottle. The noise was loud enough to make the pharmacist jump out of her skin, but not Juliette. She looked up into the shoplifter's mirror, saw it was me, flexed her angular cheekbones, and didn't even turn around. The toughest of cookies. I can think of easier things to be consistent about, you know? Eating cookies, for starters—just threw some in my basket and plan on proving that point later with my boys, Ben & Jerry.
Sure, I'm in the market for another friend or two. But now Juliette's back to avoiding me, so I probably can't befriend her.
At first I get a kick out of watching her pretend to shop for hair dye, lug around that designer purse, hide her face from wherever she thinks I'm lurking—I'm over here, by the tampons. Then I feel the weight of why she's keeping me at arm's length in the first place.
I grab a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups from an end-cap Halloween display and start walking toward the main candy section, in search of a replacement for the Big Red I stole from Mom's secret candy drawer (the secret's out). The gum's on sale ... but only for customers who remember their ExtraCare cards, which I have never. I'm reaching for the last remaining pack when I see a second hand that's much softer-looking than my own, heading in the same direction.
Juliette. Incredibly close. Her alert green cat-eyes are scratching through my lazy blues, making me feel like I'm in trouble for not doing something I honestly forgot about. Her face bears no blemishes, no freckles, no emotions; just smooth, impenetrable surface. I might have that defensive, survival-mode look on my face, too, if I weighed somewhere in the high nineties. She could use a few more trips to the Taco Bell drive-thru.
"Sorry," she says, pulling her hand back.
"You like Big Red, too?"
"I was getting it for my dad."
"Same," I say. "For my mom, I mean." Except I'm sure the last thing this enigmatic girl wants is for our surviving parents to have something in common, too. I hold out the gum to her. "You go ahead."
She shakes her head. "I'll find something else."
I wait, watch as she selects a box of Hot Tamales and then turns back to me.
"What are those?" Juliette asks, pointing to the circulation socks in my basket. Unclear why I thought they were such a good idea fifteen minutes ago, I hand them over. She takes them, examines the label for a second. "My dad needs these. He never gets out of his swivel chair."
"My kind of guy."
She doesn't smile. I offer her the socks and she accepts, thanks me, and situates them in her left hand with the Hot Tamales. At the same time, the giant purse slung over her right shoulder is looking heavier by the minute.
"Want to put your stuff in my basket until you're ready to pay?"
Her free hand reaches around toward her bun. She contemplates taking her hair down, then decides against it. Then she goes through these motions again and arrives at the same conclusion.
"Sorry, I'm not the best at making conversation," she says.
I act like this is the craziest self-assessment ever—"What? Noooo, you're good"—probably overdoing it.
"You have a dog?" she asks.
"Maybe," I say mysteriously, thinking I've missed something. "Why?"
Juliette points to the dog treats I forgot were in my basket.
"Sorry, yeah. A golden retriever."
Her mood goes from dark to darker before I can do anything about it. I have to hold myself back from making a physical-contact-based gesture that wouldn't be appreciated.
"Something wrong?" I ask.
"Yes, with my dad ... He doesn't believe in family pets."
I stop myself from mentioning that my dad had a similar policy, one that my mom and I conveniently forgot about on our way to the dog breeder's place.
"That's disappointing," I say.
"Agree." Then Juliette's stomach growls, and I consider offering her a biscuit as a joke, but it wouldn't be funny.
"Hungry?" I say, because I can't help myself.
"Not at all."
I'm amazed by how resolutely she's able to ignore the growl.
"In that case, I think there's an animal living inside you."
Her stomach growls again, louder this time, more like a roar. She still doesn't flinch.
"I was going to stop by Taco Bell after here, if you, uh ...?"
The scrunched-up nose she gives me back indicates she has other plans. Then she tells me she's jogging home, and it's my turn to make a scrunchy face.
"Just keep me company for ten minutes," I bargain, minus any chips. "I'm more fascinating the longer you're around me. Promise."
"Their drive-thru is the fastest in town."
"Okay," she says.
"Okay, I'll go to Taco Bell with you for ten minutes."
The speedy-drive-thru angle is what sold her? Both confused and thrilled by her sudden change of heart, I watch as she power-walks toward the prescription pickup area, hoping this is the beginning of something that has a lot more of her in it. I start walking over to join her, but then change my mind, not really wanting Juliette to watch me sign for a big bag of Paxil. Nope, I'll just get it tomorrow.
Waiting outside at the Redbox next to the entrance, I look over to my car and remind myself to drive well below the speed limit. The last thing I need is Juliette worrying I'll take a thirty-five-mph curve going seventy and roll the vehicle three times. Like my dad did that night, a year ago, with Juliette's mom in his passenger seat.CHAPTER 3
My dad would never approve of my riding in Abram Morgan's SUV, so it's a good thing I have no plans to tell him about it. Abram overcautiously drives through to the fluorescent Taco Bell menu and orders something called a Doritos Locos Supreme. Five of them. I make a bizarre yum noise and tell him I'll have what he's having, sounding like a foreign exchange student.
I offer to pay as Abram pulls up to the window, but he insists. I insist back, telling him I have this thing about not owing people money. (Just don't want to owe him anything.)
"I get it," he says, finally accepting my card. "I keep forgetting to take my wallet to school, and I owe two or three people lunch money right now—not a good way to live."
He doesn't get it, but it's considerate of him to downplay my issue by bringing up one of his. I should say something nice about him in return.
"I like your heated seats."
"Thanks," he says, smiling.
Abram still hands the cashier his card. I can't protest because I'm attempting to dry-swallow a pill chunk (I like to break my two-pills-per-day dosage into quarters under the delusion I'm taking more). I manage to cough it down, smiling innocently as he looks over and asks if I'm okay. Thinking the smile is for him, the cashier gives me a perverted look like he knows his way around a taco. Please make it stop. Abram asks for extra packets of mild sauce and drives away.
Look at Abram Morgan behind the wheel, sunroof open, wind in his hair, an overstuffed sack of questionably Mexican food between his legs. Okay, enough. I'm not going to be the girl who pulls him up by the straps of his flip-flops, prunes his scraggly sideburns with a nose-hair trimmer, and transforms him into four-year-college material.
But I'll admit that there's a hopelessly endearing quality to him. And coexisting with someone else who's halfway to orphanhood definitely takes the pressure off. Neither of us feels like we have to give the other a bouquet of daisies just for getting out of bed and taking things one pill at a time.
"Why didn't you pick up your Paxil at CVS?" Rude of me to ask this right as he's taking his first bite.
He doesn't seem fazed, just resumes the bite while making a noise that sounds like a question mark.
"Sorry, I saw a bag of pills next to mine with your name on it."
"S'okay," he says, swallowing. "Honestly? I was embarrassed. Thought you'd think I was weird for being on an antidepressant."
I raise an eyebrow and point to the prescription bag sticking out of my purse.
"Your doctor put you on one, too?" Abram asks.
"I'm sure he would have if I hadn't faked my ADHD symptoms."
Abram thinks I'm joking and laughs, saying, "Crazy how quick they are to prescribe meds these days, you know? I've never been able to tell if mine are working."
"So why take them?"
"Hmm," he says, "habit?"
A few tacos later, Abram is pulling up the driveway of my house before I can tell him to park anywhere else. The blinds covering my dad's office window remain in place.
"I don't feel like going in there," I say, reaching for my purse.
"Then come over to my house," Abram offers. "My mom is at the casino with my aunt. They're winning right now, so it could be a while." He hands me his phone so I can see a picture of his mom—an attractive, harmless-looking blond with buxom to spare—bending down beside a slot machine and smiling. "She's pretty," I say, relieved that it's true. Abram smiles. I can tell he's proud of her, worries over her, loves her ... mostly because I'm reading some of their texts right now. Lots of tech-support questions from her about her iPad and patient responses from him.
"Give me two minutes to lie to my dad," I say, handing back his phone.
"Take your time."
Excerpted from Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark. Copyright © 2015 Jay Clark. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was the best book I've read in a long time. I was sorry when I finished the book, because the characters were so colorful, and the plot was not irritating in any way. I hope sequel is made to this book, and I can't wait to read it.
Best book I've read since Eleanor & Park! Funny, fresh, poignant.
So many LOLs over the course of reading this book, but in between the laughs, there's also a softer side to it that features just the right amount of sentimentality. Loved it
I am not ashamed to admit that I requested this book based on the title. I mean, I DID read the synopsis. But if I am going to be honest, this Killers fan was going to request this book from Netgalley no matter the subject matter. Fortunately, I’m smart enough (sometimes) to know that this wouldn’t likely have any Killers references. And unless I’m seriously missing something, it didn’t. However, that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying Abram and Juliette’s story. Abram has been watching Juliette for a while now. Even he admits it’s kind of creepy. But to be fair it’s kind of hard to figure out how to approach the daughter of your dead father’s dead lover. Yeah. Awkward. When he runs into her at CVS he doesn’t waste the opportunity. They talk and he even convinces her to go with him to Taco Bell. But only for ten minutes. Juliette’s rule, not his. But, hey, Abram will take what he can get. Whether it was nurture or nature, Juliette’s mother has greatly influenced Juliette’s outlook on life. Since she is always suspicious, Juliette doesn’t fully trust her attraction to Abram. Nor does she trust Abram’s obvious attraction to her. So she proceeds with caution and distrust. It’s the only way she knows how to approach anything in life. But all that suspicion doesn’t stop her from carefully navigating a fragile relationship with her the son of her mom’s lover. Both Juliette and Abram (Juliette especially) worry that their attraction to each other can’t be separated from their dysfunctional shared history. But as they spend more time together they find that the chemistry is real. They also find a way to come to terms with their parents’ mistakes and to remember some of the good things their parents did when they were alive. Being a fan of contemporary YA and Adult romance/fiction, I try to be a little more forgiving of character flaws. Because, for me, that’s the point of contemporary fiction. To read about real people with real life problems and personalities. And, as we all know, real people are imperfect. These two main characters are young. And although they have experienced more than any teen should, they still lack some of the life experience and sensitivity that comes with time and age. At times, this is obvious in the way they refer to people and things. But that doesn’t take away from the growth they both experience. They both lift each other up. Abram helps Juliette be spontaneous and see the joy in the little things around them. Juliette helps Abram find the motivation he lost when he lost his dad. Their relationship had the possibility of being unhealthy but together their positive influences shine through. This ended up being another great addition to the world of contemporary YA. Not only are the main characters well developed, the adult characters are great too. Although they were originally connected because of mistakes made by their deceased parents, the real adult influences in their life are their surviving parents. Abram’s mom is full of love and laughter and it’s no surprise where he gets his ability to enjoy life. Juliette’s dad, although a bit absent-minded, is full of love for his daughter. A trait that makes all the difference in Juliette’s life by the end of the book. If you love contemporary YA as much as I do, I highly recommend you pick up and read Finding Mr. Brightside. Nat
There are some books that capture you from just the synopsis, Finding Mr Brightside was one of those books, I was fascinated by the way that Juliette and Abram know of each other, Juliette's Mom and Abram's Dad were having an affair and subsequently died together in a car accident, and while they've lived down the street from each other all of their lives they've avoided personal contact, until the night they run into each other at a pharmacy, it's from this encounter they begin to spend a lot of time together and ultimately find kindred spirits in each other having both gone through the same thing. This story was so funny, heartwarming and cute, I adored it and finished it in one sitting and wanted to reread it immediately then and there it was just so good. This may just be one of my favourite books of the year so far. For those who love their contemporary romances with an original storyline, then you need to pick this one up.
3 stars (like it) I wanted to read this one because it sounded like the kind of love story that gets me every time... the one formed by tragedy. The prologue didn't do much for me but I liked once we got into Abram and Juliette's heads and lives. We see right off, with them meeting at CVS that both were taking care of parents who aren't fully present, but also that Juliette is taking ADHD meds and abusing them even though she has a prescription and that Abram is on an anti-depressant. I think both are pressing issues for teens, knowing when meds are okay, helpful and what the line is with abuse. As a side effect of the ADHD meds, Juliette feels a confidence that she normally doesn't have and she agrees to go get some food with him, and so their love story began. Their parents are against them being together but especially her dad. Abram's mom seems more resigned, and has always wanted Abram to keep an eye on her, but never this closely. Juliette is more of a free spirit, and just drops in pretty much when she wants, uses his computer, and steals his heart. I enjoyed Juliette's growth, but wish that some was more self motivated rather than because Abram asked her to stop the meds. But I was still proud of him when he followed her suggestions of how to wean off of his. The ending was sweet and perfect for the journey of these two characters. The only reason that I marked it down is because while it is a story line that I enjoyed, and a good romance, it ultimately didn't stand out. Their meds, their parents (the dead ones also got attention and they were working through the cheating and the position they're in because of their relationship) I feel like it could have been more emotional. Regardless of what I said about their reasons for recovery, I do like that they challenge the other. Juliette steps out of her comfort zone-- talking to others, trying new things, being open to stop the meds eventually. Abram was open to trying tennis again, something he was very good at, but something that was very associated with his dad. I also didn't like the slut shaming. I get that Juliette didn't have the best self-esteem, but she def focused on someone Abram was friends with and in her mind and sometimes out loud, tearing down this other girl. I guess that her views of sex can be skewed as well because of her mom's affair, but associated just being on the pill with being a whore, or letting herself feel lust and passion in the same light. I did enjoy the remaining parents' dysfunction and development. It took a lot to get Juliette's dad to face reality instead of depending so much on her, and being a legit writer hermit. On the other hand, Abram's mom was involved but not pushy. She would voice concern but respect his decisions. She didn't let her husband's affair with Juliette's mom effect her view of Juliette as a separate person. The ending was sweet and perfect for the journey of these two characters. Bottom Line: Fast read, good characters with decent growth and a sweet romance, but not without issues.
Abram and Juliette have circled each other for a while the way people do when they go to the same school and live down the street from each other. Their lives only become inextricably linked when Abram's father and Juliette's mother die. In a car crash. Together. In the wake of the crash Abram and Juliette are both left reeling with grief and confusion over their parents' affair and sudden deaths. With few other coping mechanisms in sight Abram ends up on anti-depressants while Juliette self-medicates with Adderall. They never should have been friends. Except Abram likes Juliette and decides to say hello to her at CVS. No one is more surprised than Juliette when she agrees to go with Abram to Taco Bell. That's when what starts as a tenuous friendship might turn into something neither of them saw coming in Finding Mr. Brightside (2015) by Jay Clark. Finding Mr. Brightside alternates between Abram's and Juliette's first person narration. Because this book is so slim (224 pages, hardcover), much of the plot and character development is pushed off page with very little foundation to support the relationship between the two main characters. The plot also moves very abruptly from their first meeting to going off on a five day vacation together. Juliette and Abram are both damaged, honest characters. Abram comes off as a likable slacker while Juliette is brittle and high-strung. Unfortunately they are also both thinly drawn beyond those key traits. Juliette is particularly problematic. While her quirks and fears come from a very authentic place, the portrayal is fundamentally flawed. Every time Juliette contemplates her sexuality, even vaguely, she refers to herself as a whore. Furthermore, in asking Abram if he is attracted to another girl, Juliette repeatedly refers to a girl (a character referred to but never seen) as "that Asian." With the proper treatment, both behaviors can have their place in fiction. Unfortunately they are presented here without further comment and serve only to leave a bad taste in a reader's mouth. Finding Mr. Brightside is a fast and sometimes sweet story. It is also not a romance in the truest sense. What this story is--and what it does well, flaws aside--is focus on the recovery process accompanying a tragic loss and the people that can help others move past those dark moments. Possible Pairings: Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, How to Steal a Car by Pete Hautman, Rx by Tracy Lynn, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp *An advance copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher*
I wanted to like this novel. First, the title reminds me of the song by The Killers, and I wondered if and how Abram and Juliette's story would relate to the song. Second, the story sounds really cute (as is the cover for the novel). However, I just couldn't connect with the characters or their story. The chapters alternate between Abram and Juliette's perspectives. Finding Mr. Brightside is already short for a novel. In order to give each character enough page time, the chapters are cut short and aren't filled with many details. The result is that the story moves fairly quickly without elaborating on the characters thoughts and actions. It also made me confused about the nature of their relationship. Juliette's mom and Abram's dad died not too long ago on top of having an affair with each other. From Juliette's first chapter, we know that she isn't sure how to interact with Abram, so how do they end up kind of flirting with each other soon after we learn this piece of information? Juliette blames some of her bizarre actions on her medication, but it would have helped if some of the backstory had been set up before the pharmacy scene. (Such has how the families are coping, what their relationship is like right now, maybe what they're struggling with, and how their respective medications are influencing their lives.) As it is, Abram and Juliette fell flat for me. While some insight into their minds is provided, their thoughts don't tell us much beyond the superficial. I don't feel like we're really shown the core of their characters. In addition, their behavior seems juvenile, and because of the lack of backstory, the character motivation is lacking. It seems to me from Abram's first chapter that he has a crush on Juliette, but since when and how has the "tragedy" influenced his view of Juliette and his perceived chance of a romantic encounter with her? Juliette is harder to understand. Why does she blame her behavior on the medications, and does she view it as a good or bad thing? Why is she on the medication in the first place? I believe that these question will be answered later, but they haven't been answered 17% into the novel. In fact, 17% into the novel, I still don't know what makes them who they are. Not to mention that I'm still on the first night (the pharmacy night). By now, I would have expected the introduction to be over and the plot starting to move. For a tragic love story, I would recommend The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle. For a short, cute love story, I would recommend The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. My reviews for these novels are linked before. DNF 17% into the novel (the last third of which was skimmed)