Review: From What I Remember.... by Stacy Kramer & Valerie Thomas

Friday, July 6, 2012
Genre: young-adult, contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 475 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: May 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

 KYLIE: Tijuana WHAT? I should be putting the finishing touches on my valedictorian speech. Graduation is TODAY, and is this a wedding band on my finger.

MAX: It all started with Kylie's laptop and a truck full of stolen electronics. Okay, it was kind of hot, the way she broke us out like some chick in an action movie. But now we're stranded in Tijuana. With less than twenty-four hours before graduation. Awesome.

WILL: Saving Kylie Flores from herself is kind of a full-time occupation. Luckily, I, Will Bixby, was born for the job. And when I found out she was stuck in Mexico with dreamy Max Langston, sure, I agreed to bring their passports across the border -- but there's no reason to rush back home right away. This party is just getting started.

LILY: I just walked in on my boyfriend, Max Langston, canoodling with Kylie Flores, freak of the century. Still, I can't completely hold it against him. He NEEDS me. It's even clearer now. And I'm not giving him up without a fight.

From What I Remember is exactly what that synopsis makes it sound like: fluff. Utter, complete, involving, engaging, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, and compelling fluff. It's light, it's charming and it's fun, despite the near 500-page length. Aside from a few (5) vocabulary choices that had me seeing red, this was an unexpected and amusing roadtrip coming-of-age story.  The characters may veer a little too close to stereotypes at times in their presentation, especially the flamboyant, cross-dressing Will and the uber mean-girl Lily, but on the whole, From What I Remember does what it aims to - it entertains the reader while making them care about these flawed, human and vastly entertaining characters. It's a beach read for teens and adults that enjoy a fluffy, sweet romance. 

I'm usually wary of a rotating POV scheme, especially when it's used by so many characters, like it is here. Kylie, Max, Will, Lily and Jake (Kylie's brother with Aspberger's) all get a shot to share their inner monologue. Fortunately for both myself and the novel, each of these unique perspectives actually managed to bring something different to the table, while adding to the overall picture and plot of the novel. I do wish Lily and Will had been less of cliches in their expected roles (seriously, Lily mean-girls the shit out of Kylie for 460 out of 475 pages and it got old fast), but Will, especially, grows into an actual, rounded person instead of a caricature. These are characters that actually evolve and grow over the course of the book - it's refreshing to read and makes it easy to invest in most of the cast.

This is a happily-ever-after type of novel, and that's not a spoiler. The romance is the most obvious part of the entire plot, and though one of my least-favorite plot devices (the miscommunication!) stalls the inevitable for a while, this remains engaging to read through the predictable ups and downs of teenage love. The payoff in reading From What I Remember... isn't in seeing if these two end up together, but in reading how everything comes together as they grow up significantly this 48-hour adrenaline-fueled adventure. Max and Kylie are two interesting people who work well together; one of the few YA pairings that aren't based off instalove or pure lust. Kylie is the perfect foil for Max's studied cool-act, and he complements her outrageousness nicely. 

This was so close to being a perfect, lazy read for a relaxed and lazy day. But. There's always a "but." For From What I Remember, the problem honestly surprised me. It wasn't isntalove, or Mysteriously Missing Parent Syndrome, but something else I've been noticing in a fair few YA novels. Kylie has a brother with Asperger's syndrome and persists in using the word "retard" as an insult. Repeatedly. That bothered me immensely, enough that I was jerked out the book every time it was uttered. No. Just no. First: it's wrong. Second: Kylie has a brother that in all likelihood, would've heard that leveled at him in a mean way. That is life, but that doesn't make it okay, especially for his sister to use so glibly. For a novel that takes care to show so many awesome examples of gay youth, I was disappointed not to see the same civility and consideration for the handicapped. 

Fun but flawed, From What I Remember... was a nice escape for a few hours. Despite its impressive length, this is a book that reads both easily and well. It's cute, and for the most part, inoffensive as it tackles growing up and moving on from high school. It's brain candy - a bubblegum book for when you just want to read something cute and predictable instead of a literary meal that needs digesting. It easily could be billed as The Hangover In Mexico - for teens. Buckle up for one hell of a road-trip, filled with border dodging, illegal gangsters, mass weddings, and even a police chase of sorts. From What I Remember is best termed a fun "romp" - one that will engage and please its readers from the get-go.


  1. I totally thought The Hangover for teens as I read the blurb -- still -- could be fun. I feel ya on the poor word choice -- it's like when I hit 'fag' in books or other slurs. Gross!

    1. It would have been a nearly perfect bit of fluff if the authors hadn't used that one word.
      The f-word bothers me even more when I read it in a novel. Authors in this day and age should know better!

  2. Thanks for the insightful review. We take your point about the word 'retard' which we used not glibly, but because it is so commonly used by high schoolers. but that's no excuse, and we certainly don't want to condone it. so thanks for bringing it up.

    valerie thomas

    1. I appreciate that explanation about the vocab - you're absolutely right that a lot of teens use that word in that way, I just wish Kylie hadn't been one of them.

      But thank you for stopping by. :)


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