Author: Liz Czukas
Published: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 2 stars
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“It was weird the way you could be friends with someone but not really know the ugly parts of their lives. We all had our secrets, I supposed.”My Thoughts
― Liz Czukas, Ask Again Later
Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there's only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.
Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother's best friend really be?
Tails: The theater geek...with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart's interests--even if he wants to share all his feelings?
Heart's simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all... (Goodreads)
Ask Again Later is a fun, light read great for stuffing in a beach bag, or for a much-needed break from the heavier issue books or fantasy chunksters you may be reading. It’s a fluff-filled book centering around prom and gossip and first crushes, and as such, it is not my type of read at all. It’s not a horrible book per se; it’s just not the kind of book I would normally pick up, even when I’m looking for a cute contemporary.
First off, Ask Again Later suffers from one of my biggest book pet peeves. For every stereotype you can think of concerning teenagers, there is a character in Ask Again Later that meets that stereotype exactly. Yes, I understand that some teenagers can be obnoxious, immature, petty and even moronic. I’ve been there; I’ve witnessed the drama and awkwardness and the stupid mistakes of high school, and I understand that high school students can’t all be as mature as the old souls you might find in a John Green book. But some of the characters in Ask Again Later had no redeemable qualities whatsoever.
Case in point, I could not stand Heart’s older brother, Phil. Not only was he a complete asshole to Heart, but he laughed off Heart’s concerns when her one date was being a little too forward. Heart was uncomfortable with her date’s advances, but when she mentioned this to her brother, he brushed it off and said she should stop whining. This is not ok in the slightest! At least Heart recognized that her brother was acting like a dick and didn’t let him off for his inexcusable behavior, but he does not sound at all like the big brother I would want. And then later, he does a complete 180, and suddenly acts overprotective and asks if he should worry about a guy that is interested in Heart. Why does he suddenly care?
Besides Heart’s brother, Ask Again Later had a host of other characters you may find in any stereotypical high school movie, and I don’t think they were meant to be caricatures. There’s the drunk jocks and their bimbo girlfriends, wearing barely nothing and making bitchy comments. Then there were the techies and theater geeks, like Heart and her friends. For the most part, I did like Heart’s friends, and I thought they were really supportive of one another and just all around great friends. While Ask Again Later does center around one romance that is slowly developing, there’s also so many scenes that showcase the importance of friendship, and I was moved by how close Heart was with her group of friends. But then her friends took matters into their own hands near the ending, and I thought their concern for Heart and her romantic life went a little overboard. Sure, I found it somewhat entertaining, but I can’t honestly say it was the best course of action to take. And if I had been in her shoes, I would have been freaking out and not at all amused with the whole situation.
As for our protagonist, Heart, I liked her for most of the book. She’s a fun-loving, happy go lucky girl who doesn’t take the decision between two potential prom dates lightly, knowing she will hurt the feelings of one of the guys. She seemed to have a good head on her shoulders; that is until she constantly brought up gay stereotypes. When her one friend comes out of the closet, she is happy that he came out to her and trusted her with such a big secret, but then she is surprised when he shows no interest in dancing, expecting that he would be a good dancer since he’s gay. She also repeatedly jokes about his sexual orientation out loud where others could easily overhear and guess his secret. At times, I thought she was narrow-minded and immature, but I tried to give her a break, considering she is a teenager, and she is constantly being bombarded by stereotypes and gossip and rumors. Still, it was difficult at times to justify her behavior. I also found her no dating rule to be somewhat childish. I can understand her reasoning behind this rule, as her mother had Heart’s brother and Heart at a young age, and then eventually abandoned them. She fears dating will only lead her down the same path, and she will end up hurting her own children. But it still seemed a little far-fetched and just ridiculous.
Ask Again Later is told in two parts, two parallel nights where Heart either went to prom with the jock, Troy, or the techie, Ryan. At first, I found the two parts entertaining, but it wasn’t long before I lost track of what had happened on which date. While the two scenarios played out differently in parts, they were eerily similar, and I was often left confused. Plus, one of the dates was far more interesting than the other, and I always wanted to return to that one.
As for the romance, I thought Heart and her love interest made a cute pair. I was never left wondering who she would end up with, as I could tell from the very start who it would be. It may have been a predictable match, but it was still sweet to witness them finding each other. I could not believe how long it took Heart to discover who was interested in her, as it seemed obvious to me, and everyone else could tell as well. I found her to be a little too oblivious, but I still enjoyed watching her slowly discover who was crushing on her as she also slowly uncovered her own feelings for him.
All in all, Ask Again Later was not for me. I didn’t hate it, but it still wasn’t a memorable read, and I found it frustrating at times. This book has been receiving many positive reviews, and I can understand why others liked it, but I wouldn’t go into it with high expectations. If you like fluffy YA contemporaries, I’d urge you to pick it up, as it might be a new favorite. The romance is sweet, and it is a quick read, so I’d say give it a try if you think it’s up your alley. As for me, I think I might need to read a few fantasy books before I return to the contemporary genre.