Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cut Loose: One Night That Changes Everything

One Night That Changes Everything by Lauren Barnholdt
Simon Pulse, 2010

Reading for fun means different things to different people. For some, when they read for pleasure they can't get enough of how-to manuals or learning about the French Revolution. For others, it's all about a story that brings up warm fuzzies and believing in the good side of people. This weekend, I got to experience two different examples of "feel good" entertainment. The first was when I saw the new remake of Footloose - it wasn't high theatre by any means, but I enjoyed it. I got lost in a story for two hours and it was fun. The second was Lauren Barnholdt's sophomore novel One Night That Changes Everything.

I love stories that take place in an incredibly short amount of time because they make me feel like I'm experiencing the characters and situations in real time. In this case, readers are introduced to Eliza, a junior in high school living in the greater Boston area. She's looking forward to a night hanging out with her two best friends since her parents are out of town, but the boy who recently broke her heart, Cooper, and his friends seem to have a much different agenda: they've somehow gotten their hands on the little purple notebook that Eliza has been writing down all of her fears in since she was 12 and they want her to face more than a few of them before the night is over otherwise they'll post all of them online for the whole world to see.

Barholdt's novel is fast paced, and rightly so considering it all takes place in less than eighteen hours. Yet in that short amount of time, you still get a feel for the characters that's more than one-dimensional. Some of Eliza's fears/tasks are pretty common - who isn't mortified by the thought of performing karaoke? - but others are much more painful, like admitting a secret to her big sister that's been eating at her for a while. And of course there's Cooper, an enigma all on his own. His "friends" are the one putting Eliza through all of this, yet he's trying to help her as much as he can every step of the way.

All in all, this book got me into a fantastic mood for the weekend when I read it Friday. It was fun, I liked the pacing, and the premise, though a little ridiculous, was still interesting. I couldn't wait to see how Eliza got through it or if she would ever draw the line and say "No." This novel is brain candy that isn't so sweet that it will leave you groaning with a headache afterwards, but instead just made me smile and feel a little bit nostalgic for the nights I had in high school and college that felt like they, too, changed everything.

Comments welcome, and happy reading!

Lauren Barnholdt's Website
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