Kind of Sort of Fine – Spencer Hall – Atheneum Books for Young Readers – Published 22 June 2021
Senior year of high school is full of changes.
For Hayley Mills, these changes aren’t exactly welcome. All she wants is for everyone to forget about her very public breakdown and remember her as the overachiever she once was—and who she’s determined to be again. But it’s difficult to be seen as a go-getter when she’s forced into TV Production class with all the slackers like Lewis Holbrook.
For Lewis, though, this is going to be his year. After a summer spent binging 80s movies, he’s ready to upgrade from the role of self-described fat, funny sidekick to leading man of his own life—including getting the girl. The only thing standing in his way is, well, himself.
When the two are partnered up in class, neither is particularly thrilled. But then they start making mini documentaries about their classmates’ hidden talents, and suddenly Hayley is getting attention for something other than her breakdown, and Lewis isn’t just a background character anymore. It seems like they’re both finally getting what they want—except what happens when who you’ve become isn’t who you really are?
A story about surviving high school, with humour, honesty and a delightful freshness.
High school is tough – especially when you had a meltdown in front of the entire school and district. For Hayley, returning to school after she had a public breakdown in the school driveway is hard enough. When her parents and teachers decide that she is working too hard, she has to make a choice – drop tennis or drop her advanced placement courses. She drops tennis and is forced into TV production. She thinks it will be a joke. Instead, she is surprised to find herself having fun. She is teamed up with Lewis. For Lewis, senior year is the year he is finally senior producer at the school’s TV production class. It’s also going to be the year he recasts himself. No longer just the fat guy, Lewis has big plans.
When Hayley and Lewis are teamed up in TV production class, they seem like two opposites. Instead, they work really well together and they start to film documentaries that showcase the secret lives of their fellow students. It’s a bit of a journey of discovery for them both. Not only do they learn more about their classmates then they ever would have imagined, they also pushed themselves in new ways – physically and mentally and learnt more about themselves.
Kind of Sort of Fine is a lighthearted book that is easy to read. It is an enjoyable book, yet also reflects the stress and load that students are under. Hayley has been striving for a big future and finds herself questioning everything she’s worked for. Where her parents and teachers pushed her, now they want her to just forget everything and relax, like college applications aren’t looming. Lewis wants to change his image. I liked that while he wants to get fit, he retains a comfortableness in his own skin.
A great realistic novel that I’ll easily recommend to my students. Kind of Sort of Fine is a debut novel and I will eagerly await what Spencer Hall writes next.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Genre: Realistic fiction
Themes: TV, production, mental health, stress breakdowns, high school, senior school, romance, documentaries,
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, f*** (2), sh** (20), as***** (1), pi** (1), di** (5), Vague sexual references.
Published: 22 June 2021 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 288 pages.