Hello, friends! It’s my stop on The Book Terminal Tours blog tour for Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall. Special thanks to Atheneum Books for Young Readers for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!
Goodreads: Kind of Sort of Fine
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: 22 June 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Coming of Age
Senior year changes everything for two teens in this poignant, funny coming-of-age story that looks at what happens when the image everyone has of us no longer matches who we really are.
Senior year of high school is full of changes.
For Hayley Mills, these changes aren’t exactly welcome. All she wants is for everyone to forget about her very public breakdown and remember her as the overachiever she once was—and who she’s determined to be again. But it’s difficult to be seen as a go-getter when she’s forced into TV Production class with all the slackers like Lewis Holbrook.
For Lewis, though, this is going to be his year. After a summer spent binging 80s movies, he’s ready to upgrade from the role of self-described fat, funny sidekick to leading man of his own life—including getting the girl. The only thing standing in his way is, well, himself.
When the two are partnered up in class, neither is particularly thrilled. But then they start making mini documentaries about their classmates’ hidden talents, and suddenly Hayley is getting attention for something other than her breakdown, and Lewis isn’t just a background character anymore. It seems like they’re both finally getting what they want—except what happens when who you’ve become isn’t who you really are?
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Spencer Hall graduated from the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky in with a BS in English. He moved to Chicago to study improv, but soon realized when it came to being funny, he was better at writing things down than making them up on the spot. When he’s not writing, he can be found running by the lake, occasionally performing stand-up comedy at poorly attended open mic nights, and researching how to become a professional mini-golf player. Kind of Sort of Fine is his first novel.
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: This was such a lighthearted and feel-good read that will leave you smiling at least a little bit, if not full on laughing out loud (like I did)! There are definitely plenty of serious moments as both characters face up to their anxieties and worries but Hall does a great job balancing those moments with humour and a sarcastic tone that I personally loved! Hayley and Lewis were wonderful, realistic and relatable characters and it was so easy to root for their happiness. This was an entertaining and heartfelt debut and I can’t wait to see what Hall comes out with in the future.
CW/TW: Extreme anxiety, mental breakdown, bullying
This book pulled me right out of a weird reading slump! I laughed, even teared up a little bit, and it made me kinda yearn for my high school friendships and the pre-adulting life when passing a test was one of my biggest concerns and having a conversation with a long-time crush in the hallway made me feel accomplished! Spencer Hall’s debut was funny, engaging, easy to read and gave me all the warm and comforting hug feels.
“That’s the thing about wanting to be the leading man of my own life, I can easily forget that all my “side characters” are off being their own leads “off-screen”.”
This was such a relatable read and I have no doubt that many who pick this up will be able to relate to the characters, their high school experiences, worries and struggles, in at least one way or another. There were so many times as I was reading when I found myself reflecting on my high school days—remembering the stress of finals and the overwhelming (but admittedly also kinda thrilling) experience of applying to uni. Beyond that of course there’s high school drama, bullies, cliques but also crushes and the best friendships.
“Maybe I’m not so worried about college being a different place. Maybe I’m worried that no matter where I go, there I’ll be.”
I think Hall managed to capture the general high school experience perfectly but on top of that, he also captured the teenage voice so well. Our two main perspectives, Hayley and Lewis, had very distinct and personable voices and I really enjoyed both their POVs! What I appreciated about Hayley’s POV was seeing how she worked on coming to terms with not being that ‘perfect overachiever’ and being okay with the change in her person from previous years. I liked that her therapy sessions were included in her perspective as it normalises talking to someone when you need support—and although Hayley doesn’t take it seriously at first, I liked seeing that change as she realises that the sessions actually help.
Although I didn’t relate as closely to Hayley, Lewis was basically me? I related so much to his personal struggles with being the ‘bigger kid’ and especially being that person who made the self-deprecating jokes before anyone else could make fun of me—honestly, I’m still that person sometimes! It was so easy to root for him and his determination to do better for himself, not only in terms of his health but also learning to see himself in a better light and to make something of himself, was really motivating. There were also many moments when the thoughts running through his mind about not knowing what comes next or what to do next really hit home for me. He was just a genuinely sweet, funny and down-to-earth guy, though that’s not to say he doesn’t make some pretty cringeworthy mistakes during the story (same for Hayley)—although he is quick to admit to his faults and make amends in the best way he knew how.
“I hope you find your ensemble. Looking at this footage, I know a lot of you already have. And if you haven’t, there’s still time. Your life isn’t a movie. There’s always another scene, a chance to be better, to make amends, to take a risk and take another if the first one doesn’t go so well. […] is an end. But it’s also a beginning. And a middle. Keep going.”
I loved the friendship that grew between the two because it was so natural and although they’re opposites, it was clear they brought out the best in each other. Although there were some romantic elements to their story, I was happy that the focus remained on their friendship and on their personal growth. Alongside the plot, their growth and ‘journey of self-discovery’ was well-paced and realistic. I loved the message of how you’re not simply just “one thing” and that’s it for the rest of your life—people grow and it’s okay if what you wanted before is no longer what you want now or if you’re no longer the same person as you were then. There’s no one role we’re meant to play forever!
Have you read Kind of Sort of Fine or is it on your TBR?
Does this sound like a book you’d like to read?