There’s nothing worse than peaking in high school. Nobody knows that better than Josie Pie. She was kind of a big deal―she dropped out of high school to be a star! But the bigger you are, the harder you fall. And Josie fell. Hard. Ouch. Broadway dream: dead.
Josie Pie was kind of a big deal in high school. The star of the school play, she is encouraged by her theater instructor to travel to New York to audition for a role on Broadway. Josie Pie is going places!
Turns out, being a big deal in high school doesn’t guarantee you a spot on Broadway. Scared of returning to school a failure, Josie stays in New York, racking up debt on a credit card and living in a hostel, then briefly on the street, before getting a job as a nanny for a rich woman.
Now Josie lives in middle-of-nowhere Montana nannying for the same woman. After a trip to the local bookstore, where she is gifted a free pair of reading glasses by the cute book clerk boy, Josie settles down on a bench at the park to read while her charge plays on the playground. Only, she quickly finds she isn’t reading the book, she’s literally in the book!
The experience happens again and again with each book she reads. Josie is a different character each time, and leaving each story becomes harder and harder. Will Josie find a perfect book to stay in forever?
I came across a lot of negative reviews for this book, but if you’re willing to accept a cringey, self-absorbed main character, the book isn’t that bad. Finding yourself transported into each book you read is a fun concept, especially for a YA novel, and Hale does a good job switching tones between each book and genre. Josie reads an adult romance (that’s really a smutty book but a clean version because YA), a comic book, a post-apocalyptic romance, a horror novel (briefly), a fantasy novel (also briefly), and an historical fiction novel. Each book has its own vibe even though the cast of characters remains largely the same.
As a YA novel, it is a little scattered. The voice of the novel and Josie’s character are definitely geared towards younger readers (middle grade, most likely), but the complicated plot and the end twist into what seems an entirely different genre do give the overall impression of disorganization. The book feels jumbled, to put it plainly. As a young reader, you may not understand everything that happens in the book, and as an older or adult reader, you may find yourself too annoyed by Josie’s personality to finish the book. So, the novel has it flaws on both ends of the spectrum.
However, I still found the book to be a decent read. I enjoyed jumping through so many different genres and plots with Josie as she was transported into each book, and I also enjoyed watching Hale flex her writing muscles as she attempted to write a complex novel for such a young audience.
If you’ve never read a Shannon Hale book, don’t let this one be your first. She has many, many great novels much better than this one, such as The Goose Girl and Princess Academy, that are worth checking out. As a Hale novel, Kind of a Big Deal is inevitably a disappointment, but as a stand-alone YA book, it’s not too shabby.
PUBLICATION DEETS: Roaring Brook Press, August 25, 2020, 389 pages