I know it’s a weird way to start off a review but there were so many instances when I wanted to just comfort the main character and tell her that she’s perfect and that she doesn’t have to freak out about her family situation or relationships or her weight.
To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin is about a lot of things; learning to live with an overbearing mother, maintaining healthy relationships and learning to love. While these are all important aspects in creating a bomb-ass Young Adult novel, the main ingredient that made To Be Honest such an exceptional read is its emphasis on self-acceptance.
The book follows the life of Savannah, a teenage girl who is trying to maneuver the maze of adolescence while constantly being chastised by her mother to lose weight. After her mother participates in a weight-loss TV show, she’s never been the same. She’s more than a health nut and the residual effects of the show have been seeping on to Savvy and her sister, Ashley, ever since. When Ashley leaves for college, Savvy is left to deal with their overbearing mother alone and tackle the waves of a possible new relationship with her best friend’s cousin, George.
I’m glad that the characters in this novel didn’t easily fall in love like most Young Adult novels. For me, in some cases, when characters experience that love-at-first-sight ideology in books, it waters down the story and makes me a little less invested in the characters. When Savvy and George meet for the first time, the author perfectly displays how fickle the concept of love is for some teenagers. Originally, Savvy was infatuated with Mateo, her best friend’s other cousin. When George moves to the town and attends a family event, Mateo immediately flies out of her mind for the rest of the novel.
Another aspect of this book that I’m starting to also see in other YA novels is how it deals with mental illness. Besides having to overcome her mother’s judgement, Savvy is also constantly battling with anxiety. I’m glad that her anxiety wasn’t the main focus of the novel but it’s still a big part of who Savvy is. When I first picked up this book, I didn’t expect it to address any other issues outside of low self-esteem. Still, it was refreshing to find a contemporary YA Romance novel attempting to deal with a range of topics. Readers are right there with Savvy when she’s having anxiety attacks and are witnesses to how destructive her low self-esteem is to her relationships.
Besides her mental issues, Savvy’s character was more than enjoyable to read about. The way she interacted with Grace, her best friend, and the other characters in the story was so authentic. Her relationship with George was a little corny at times but I loved reading about it too.
Coming to the end of the book, the story veers away from George and Savvy’s roller-coaster romance and focuses on Savvy’s mother’s image issues. I hadn’t expected Savvy’s mother to all of a sudden accept Savvy by the end of the story but I also didn’t expect her to have to pay a visit to the hospital as a result of her warped mind-set.
To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin took my emotions on a joyride and didn’t let them off until the very end. More and more Young Adult novels are featuring serious themes even though it’s not the focus of the book and I absolutely love it. If this story sounds like your cup of tea, I highly recommend picking it up.