Ever since Beck was born – in the bathroom of a local pizza joint – her life has been defined by that moment. She’s the Bathroom Baby or the Pizza Princess, with free pizza for life, a yearly birthday party with her photo in the newspaper and on the wall of the restaurant, and a guaranteed job at Hot n’ Crusty when she turns 16. She doesn’t want the job – hell, she wants nothing more than to never be associated with HnC again! – but she needs the money. And it turns out that working at the pizza joint might just be her way of finding herself and learning how to live outside of the shadow of her birth-fame.
Note: If you don’t like spoilers, please don’t read the back-of-the-book or Goodreads description of this novel! There are things mentioned that don’t actually occur until nearly 300 pages of the book. This review, as well as my synopsis above, contains no spoilers.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way…
Sometimes, I just want to give Lauren Morrill a big hug. Not all her books are perfect for me, but they’re very much comfort reads and bring me back to my own adolescence (in a good way!) even though these characters are living several decades later and refer back to “in the 90s” the same way we referred to “in the 60s.” Ha! Morrill does a great job capturing the neurotic, anxious teen girl, and all too often, I find myself connecting with her main characters even though I’m 42 years old now. It’s not just emotional connection, either. Whether it’s a swimmer on a study abroad program (me!), a cruise setting (my fave!), or growing up in distressing levels of poverty (also me!), there’s often some personal aspect that I connect to on a very personal level. Ditto this book: my first job was in pizza, so a lot of the chaos that goes on at Beck’s job is very, very familiar. On that touchstone, a lovely story blossoms.
This is a story about a girl afraid to be herself. A girl questioning her friendships. A girl dealing with a crush that may or may not be healthy. A girl juggling two lives before she even realizes it’s happening. A girl embarrassed by her past, her choices, her likes, her job, etc. But it’s also about a girl with a supportive family. With friends who make mistakes like anyone, but who are trying to be real friends. With complicated romance and good people. It’s about found family and learning to embrace yourself.
I won’t pretend that Lauren Morrill’s stories are entirely realistic. They have happy endings that probably wouldn’t end so happily in real life. But they make you smile, and laugh, and cry, in all the best ways. These are huggable books, and when I’m feeling sad or down, they’re the perfect ones to pick up and remember that trials can be overcome. Or at very least, an escape for a few hours in pleasurable reading.
Weird thing, though, that has nothing to do with the book and more to do with the editing. Near the end of the book, twice a character is misnamed. Molly (a reporter) is referred to as Tamsin (one of Beck’s friends), and then someone named Lena just appears out of nowhere in one scene (I’m guessing it’s meant to be Julianne, and the character’s name had been changed from Lena in earlier drafts?). I’m not used to the editing missing things like this in Morrill’s books!