Death, Love, Family, and Musical Theater:The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding

the reece malcolm list

PublishedFebruary 5th, 2013 by Entangled Teen

Source: ARC from publisher

Synopsis: Things I know about Reece Malcolm:

1. She graduated from New York University.
2. She lives in or near Los Angeles.
3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week.
4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon.
5. She’s my mother.

Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much.

L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love.

But then the Reece Malcolm list gets a surprising new entry. Now that Devan is so close to having it all, can she handle the possibility of losing everything?

My thoughts:

I never would have dreamed of reading this ARC if I hadn’t started following Amy Spalding on Twitter. She’s FUNNY. I don’t read enough funny YA, so I was excited for the opportunity to check it out.

And the book is funny, in its own way. I might not have been wowed to the extent that some other bloggers have been, but I thought it was cute.

Devan has grown up with her father and stepmother (who isn’t exactly her #1 fan). They moved frequently, and she’s never really settled in to a tight group of friends, though she has discovered her passion in life is musical theater. When her father dies and the lawyers sort out that she’s to go live with her mother whom she’s never met, she flys out to LA. And that’s how she meets her mom for the first time. At the airport.

I was surprised by how rich the character of Reece Malcolm was. She was constructed with great thought and does not read like a typical YA mother, which I guess means she’s a person in her own right, not simply a plot tool, and I appreciated that. I enjoyed her cute British boyfriend who knows how to cook, too. But what impressed me most about this novel was how well Amy Spalding was able to replicate the complex dynamic of a high school social network with so many players involved. Each of the new friends that Devan makes when she begins classes at her new posh LA performing arts high school contributed to the story.

Devan had an authentic teenage voice, to be sure. She was likable in that she wasn’t apologetic about her talent but was also not entirely confident in her own skin (as few high school students are). Still, I had trouble relating to her. This is entirely personal. Perhaps because I lost my father at the same age, her grief (or lack thereof) for her father rubbed me the wrong way. She reiterates throughout the novel that she was not close to her father, and admittedly, she is a character who likes to keep her emotions bottled up. So it’s not like it was completely unbelievable, I suppose. It just provoked a negative reaction in me. While Devan was very interested in her quest to find out more about her famous novelist mother, and that story arch was compelling and moving, she never really went through the grieving process after her father’s death, and I just plain didn’t like that it was entirely left out of the story. Completely personal, I know. I did enjoy that so much of the plot focused on her relationship with her mother. Not enough young adult novels explore family dynamics in this way.

I had some other quibbles with the plotting. I disliked that little time was spent on Sai (her major crush) and his relationship with his father, and thought the “twist” that revealed why Mira, the girl who is slow to warm to Reece, maintained her distance was lame/stereotypical/out of no where. These situations felt contrived to me.

As well done as the dialogue between the teenage characters was, some of the interactions between Reece and adults were awkward, and these passages threw me out of the story. While the “list” was the hook for the story, I didn’t find the revelations about Reece Malcolm at all quirky or clever. It felt like a gimmick.

I wasn’t in love with this book like so many others have been, but I didn’t hate it. It was a quick read that was both light and funny and even moving at times. Readers who like musical theater and LA will certainly enjoy it, but this is not the book to recommend to a teenager who just lost her father…or an adult who lost her father as a teenager, in my opinion. This novel is cute, but not much more substantial than that, in my opinion. I’d recommend it to fans of Being Friends with Boys by Terra McElvoy (which I reviewed here, and had similarly mixed feelings about), as it has the same focus on music, a semi (but realistic) love triangle that didn’t annoy me and felt believable, and similarly complicated family dynamics.

Second opinions:

Little Miss Library Jenn: “I loved all the characters in this story. Devan was interesting and cool and relatable. Reece Malcolm was complex in a really realistic way, and her boyfriend, Brad, was just so awesome. Devan’s whole clan of friends each stood out on their own.”

Mimosa Stimulus: “I had no idea that I would love this book so much! Devan’s voice is perfect. Seriously, perfect. It’s so teenager, so authentic and lovable that I immediately gave her my full attention and didn’t want to stop until her story was finished.”

Reading YA: “This book has it all…romance, teen angst, and yes…humor.  The writing is witty, snarky, clever and unique.”

Clear Eyes, Full Shelves: “When just the right book comes along at just the right time, it’s a real treat. Such is the case of Amy Spalding’s debut, The Reece Malcolm List, which ticked so very many of my want-to-read boxes.”

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8 thoughts on “Death, Love, Family, and Musical Theater:The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding

  1. You’re right, Amy really is funny on Twitter! My friend really loves this book so I’m excited to read it. I’m a bit wary about the awkward dialogue though and I can see how the list would be gimmicky. I think I would enjoy this book overall but maybe not as much as others? I’m not sure. Thanks for your review!

    1. Yes, I do enjoy Amy. This isn’t the *type* of book I’m usually personally drawn to, but it was a good example of the kind of cutesy contemporary that are a hit with a lot of readers. I think actual teens will enjoy this book.

  2. Is it weird that I’m happy to see a less enthusiastic review of this book? Everyone’s been gushing about it, and I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it (whenever I get to reading it), but honestly, the reviews that are a little closer to lukewarm frequently read as more interesting and helpful. :)

    Without having read the book myself, I do think your reaction to Devan’s grief, or lack thereof, makes sense. Parents are parents, and even if we won’t mourn the individual, for whatever reason, I think there’d still be something profoundly affecting about losing the figurehead of a parent, if that makes sense.

    1. I’m always concerned when I read nothing but bad OR good reviews for a book. I think everyone should form their own opinions, because often it’s a matter of taste or personal experience that dictate what grabs a reader.

      1. There are certain blogs that are almost more useful to me in reviewing books they don’t like as they are in reviewing books they do like, simply because I can recognize the types of critiques that usually don’t line up with my own experiences. It’s fascinating, and one of my favorite things about reading reviews, actually.

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