Love and Other Fiascos by Amy Ignatow is the sixth book in her fantastic series, The Popularity Papers. Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang have to be my favorite middle schoolers and I don't say that lightly. Just in case you don't know these two lovely young ladies, let me take you back to the first book, the full title of which is, The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldbaltt and Julie Graham-Chang. About to embark on their middle school careers, the bold, outgoing Lydia and the shy, artistic Julie decide to study the popular girls and emulate them in the hopes of learning how to be popular too. Lydia will be the guinea pig and Julie will take scientific notes - notes that become the book itself. The journal format of the series lends itself perfectly to the personalities of Julie and Lydia, who takes over writing and illustrating duties when pressed, and is completely, totally engaging and always entertaining. In fact, since I started reviewing books back in 2008, The Popularity Papers is one of the few series where I have written individual reviews for each and every book as they are published - that's how much I love these books and want to share them with other readers! (Just in case you were wondering, the five book Forever Friends series by Julie Bowe and the six book Daisy Dawson series by Steve Voake and Jessica Meserve are the other two.)
At this point, Julie and Lydia have been separated by the Atlantic for a semester, traveled across the country in a car together, learned eskirma, knitting, create a graphic novel, star in the school musical, form a band, kiss a boy, get blue hair and, oh yeah, become sort of popular. And in Love and Other Fiascos things start to get kind of, sort of serious - Lydia and Julie style.
Julie and Roland are figuring things out after their kiss at the party (see the triumphant band performance and party at the end of book 5, The Awesomely Awful Melodies) a few weeks ago. Jane, Lydia and Julie's difficult friend who is still part of the roller coaster ride that is her on-again, off-again romance with Chuck, takes it upon herself to coach Julie in the ways of "dating." I put dating in quotes because, as always, Amy Ignatow is sensitive to the (mostly tween) age of her readers and honors their interests in the pursuits of older kids while remaining appropriate and accurate in her portrayal of their (often confused, bewildered) emotional lives. Thus, "dating" for Julie and Roland means a lot of wondering about what it means to be dating, trying to "date" like the other kids and, in the end, finding the kind of "date" that best suits them and their parents, who are present and active in their kid's lives. Speaking of parents, Papa Dad has some serious issues (read, freak outs) about the idea of Julie "dating," and he makes some pretty crazy rules. There are also some really great flashbacks to when Julie was a baby and toddler that further illustrate the extreme nature of Papa Dad's concern for the well being of his daughter...
When Jane's instruction makes Julie uncomfortable, she turns to Mrs. Goldblatt for some advice. This doesn't go so well either, mostly because Mrs. Goldblatt has a really big secret that is influencing the way she things about love - she is engaged to Coach Eric (see Book 2, The Long Distant Dispatch.) The wedding is planned for New Year's Eve so that Eric's kids can fly over from England. Melody pulls Lydia aside to tell her that she thinks it's really wrong for Coach Eric to abandon his kids by moving to America the same way their dad abandoned them when he moved to Colorado and started a new family. Melody enlists Lydia in her plan to make her mom see the truth in this in some ways that are funny at first, then deeply poignant by the end. At some point in almost every book in this series, Amy Ignatow manages to elicit a tear or two (or five) from me and Love and Other Fiascos is no different.
Love and Other Fiascos wraps up with some really wonderful connections and comings together. When Mrs. Goldblatt is sidetracked from her wedding preparations, Papa Dad and Daddy step in to help with Julie and even Roland adding to the team. The book ends with a really awesome two page spread that you just have to read to see!
And, as always, Amy Ignatow sets up some hilarious situations for her characters that I always forget to write about because I get too wrapped up in the emotional aspects of the plot. But, favorite funny moments from Love and Other Fiascos include knitting a wrap for a tree and everything about the super-awesome Jamie Burke.
In the weeks leading up to the publication of Love and Other Fiascos, Amy took pictures of her book on top of all sorts of crazy things and posted them on the facebook page for her books. Here's one that's seasonally appropriate!
The Popularity Papers Books 1 - 4
are available in paperback!!
The Popularity Papers Books 5 and 6
are in hardcover - for the time being!
The Awesomely Awful Melodies Love and Other Fiascos