By the Book by Amanda Sellet – Book Review

Title: By the Book

Author: Amanda Sellet

Genre: Contemporary YA

Blurb from Goodreads

As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women.

So when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair.

As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.

My Review

This book should have been perfect for me. A cutesy YA contemporary with a bookish heroine obsessed with the classics…

And yet I’m left feeling underwhelmed.

I read this book but still feel like I didn’t “read” it…
I know. That makes no sense.
Let me try to explain.

Do you ever find yourself going through the motions with a book? That for some reason you remain forever detached from the characters and the storyline? Because that’s how I feel with this book. I never found my feet.

Case in point.

When the romantic interest of the MC was introduced I felt like I had missed something. Like I’d skipped a chapter… and yet I hadn’t? The book had me all confused because the meet cute between the MC and the love interest seemingly happened prior to the novel’s beginning… I learned this A LOT later so for ages I was all at sea. It meant that I couldn’t understand the MC’s feelings about why the love interest was a cad/Lothario style character.


Do you notice I’m referring to the characters by their function in the narrative rather than by name… that’s because for some reason the names never stuck with me. The characters didn’t feel tangible enough that names mattered… I mean I was over three quarters of the way through this book when one of the younger male characters asked the MC to a school dance and I was shocked… because I’d thought he was her brother OOOPS!

This book wasn’t just about a romantic love story. It was about finding friends that accept you for who you are. Friends that love and treasure you. Friends that aren’t embarrassed by your hobbies but instead admire your passions. Friends that just get you.

And I loved that aspect of the storyline. I loved how the book spent so much time showing how important female friendship is to the development of life skills… except I couldn’t name a single one of the MC’s new group of female friends. One of them had a long-term, long-distance boyfriend I think. And outside that they all just melded into one character for me.

The siblings of the MC were similar. The MC came from a large family. I think seven: two parents and five children… but I could be wrong on this number. Because with the relatively large family size none of the family members truly stood out. About all I took in from the family dynamics was thar there was some sort of drama between the twin girls which I never understood properly.

This book lacked character creation and development imo. There was a fab storyline about finding your feet within your family, your school, your friends, and learning that first impressions may not always give you the whole picture… but these interesting themes lacked any impact because of the weakness of the characterisations.

But every now and then the story would pick up. Something would catch my interest… but invariably a few minutes later I got bored and ended up putting the book down again. It took me well over a week to read what normally (considering genre, page count etc) should have taken less than two days… so clearly this book and I just never really say eye to eye.

Not for me sadly

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