Really Awesome Mess

Really Awesome Mess

A Really Awesome Mess

by Brendan Halpin, Trish Cook

Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: July 23rd, 2013
by Egmont USA




Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin's summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents' divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog - and Emmy definitely doesn't. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends. A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.


Honestly, the inaccuracy of this book is appalling.

The way the authors chose to portray Heartland Academy were so incredibly off it was – frankly – ridiculous. Hospitals and reform centers like this are not warm and fuzzy places where people fall in love and make friends, contrary to what Cook and Halpin seem to think. They’re deep, dark, and scary places where you’re secluded from your family and friends, and I’d doubt anyone would want to go there. They’re like dementors – sucking the happiness right out of you.

Imagine being a child and being sent away from home for a week; not being able to talk to your parents. Not being able to go to school and see your friends, or being able to go to your ballet class or practice for your piano recital. I think you all get what I’m trying to say, right?

It frustrated me that the authors even thought that the scenes in this book were realistic.

  • Doors in hospitals like these are always locked from the inside. No way would any patient be able to use them as an escape method!
  • Patients are supervised every. single. minute. (Apparently Cook & Haplin seem to think this is school!)
  • No way would there be even a possibility for a field trip. Some of these patients are runaways, and no legitimate reform hospital would even think of doing such a thing.
  • This is a hospital. There is no falling in love. No friendships.
  • According to Heartland Academy, the treatment for anorexia is giving each patient more calories than their bodies can hold and forcing them to eat it all.
  • And most importantly…bringing a pig into the hospital, unguarded? Absolute poppycock.

As for the story itself, it did have quite a bit of potential if it was more realistic. Our story follows Emmy – a girl with anorexia – and Justin – who is suicidal about their journey in Heartland. What could have been a fascinating in-depth look at the psychology in patients with these disorders ended up being glossed over, replaced by an unlikable romance between two unlikeable characters that I never got myself to care for.

And as if that’s not enough, there’s also the fact that the amount of slut-shaming found in this book was absolutely ridiculous and uncalled for.

“Honestly, don’t you see how stupid this skinny thing is? You have no tits or ass left. No guy is ever gonna think you’re hot,” Diana said.


Slut-shaming – especially when the individual has an eating disorder – is absolutely not acceptable. If I hadn’t already lost all respect for this book by that point, I would there.

All in all, this book was downright inaccurate and I’m cringing just thinking about it. Every aspect – from the Mary Sue heroine and the selfish hero to the inaccuracy of the eating disorders and hospital lifestyle to the slut-shaming…I wouldn’t recommend this.


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