“The Fine Art of Truth or Dare” by Melissa Jensen
Release date: Feb. 16, 2012
Publisher: Penguin, 272 pages
Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that’s just fine by her. She’s got her friends – the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She’s got her art – and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it’s hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they’re dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I liked this book because even the cover promises a good kiss or two. I’m a sucker for first kisses and romance. Throw in a little art history, and I’m yours.
And the book mainly held up to the cover’s promises, with a few faults.
Ella, the main character here, is well-done. She’s got quirky friends (Frankie and Sadie), a loving family, and a large, self-defining scar that earns her the nickame “Freddie Kruger” and keeps her from stepping out of the shadows at her snobby private school.
She also holds two crushes: one on a long-dead handsome artist that speaks to her from a photo and a rich boy who calls her “grasshopper” one too many times (seriously, it’s weird).
Ella and her pals play Truth or Dare (people still do that?!) while hanging out a karaoke bar – and it’s when this game becomes less about Truths and more about Lying that conflicts arise. And everyone ends up lying about something. Even sad rich girl Sadie – whom I’m hoping to see a sequel.
Of course my faults lie with the boy. Alex just falls into her lap. “Hello! Let’s be friends!” Why? He’s surprisingly vague about a lot of things, actually. His parents, his friends, almost everything. My theory has something to do with running from his ex-girlfriend who is just a jerk, but that’s only addressed vaguely, of course. Also, he never mentions the scar that basically rules Ella’s view of herself – and that bugs me. It should at least be a conversation, right?
It’s Ella’s conversations with the painter Edward, whom she’s obsessed with, that save the book for me. They engage in entertaining banter that, if you can get past she’s just talking to herself (which she copes to a bunch of times — she’s not schizo), is really deft, lively and spotlights her growth through the story.
Overall, it’s a well-rounded read with a good amount of depth for a summer chick-lit. And kissing, too.