Fourteen-year-old Jenna Bloom is your average ordinary teenage girl. Her family doesn’t understand her, her next door neighbor Jared has an unrequited and unwelcome crush on her, and she’s frequently stuck babysitting the obnoxious David Lipski. All she wants is some fashionable clothes that don’t come from the bulk store, and maybe a boyfriend who appreciates her. Then she meets Luke, a handsome, mysterious young man who first appears as a server at a local restaurant, before popping up in other places, such as school. And then the equally mysterious, yet somehow ominous Adam starts lurking about as well, and suddenly Jenna’s life takes a turn for the weird.
Soon, she learns that Luke is an angel, temporarily assigned to the area for purposes unknown, and Adam is his dark opposite, a being of chaos who wants nothing more than to remain on Earth forever. With a mystic equinox fast approaching, the time for confrontation seems at hand. Only Jenna, who possesses a strange magical medallion passed down through her family for generations, can affect the ultimate outcome. But she’d rather work on costuming for the upcoming production of Fiddler on the Roof, and practice kissing with Luke. What will happen when everything comes together in a messy climax of good versus evil?
My Totally Awkward Supernatural Crush is a sendup of the paranormal romance sub-genre, borrowing all of the most common tropes to generate the usual “girl caught in triangle between good guy and bad boy” dynamic. The problem is, we’ve seen so many books that play with this emotional conflict already that this doesn’t come off as new or challenging. It’s pretty much run-of-the-mill, and setting it in eighth grade somehow robs the premise of another level of complexity.
I’ll be blunt: this book tries very hard to include its readers in on a joke, but it never really delivers a convincing set-up or punchline. The characters, the plot, the stakes—everything lacks depth. At no time did I get a sense of danger from Adam, who mainly seemed to lurk about doing vaguely sinister things like stealing one of the lead roles for Fiddler in the Roof and kidnapping David Lipski (the constantly underfoot hostage-in-training). At no time was I truly caught up in the emotional struggle, the developing relationship between Jenna and Luke. It just never felt real.
It’s obvious this book was going for something cutting and insightful, or at least humorous. At least two scenes directly parody events from the first Twilight book: Luke saves Jenna from a an out-of-control little girl on a bicycle, and later, they plays out the “I know what you are…” sequence.
“Say it,” he gently coaxes.
“You’re incredibly fast,” I say. “You’re a great skater.”
“Say it,” he coaxes again.
“You like the beach…”
“Say it.” He smirks.
“You’re being pursued by a supernatural wolf-crow-guy. You have big wings. You vanish at will. You have big wings…”
“You said that part.”
“Just say it, Jenna,” he says, starting to get exasperated.
“Angel,” I say. “You’re an angel.”
As if to drive it home, the characters clearly live in a world where Twilight already exists, with multiple references made to the book, the movie, and Robert Pattinson.
The problem is that as easy a target as Twilight and the genre it encouraged are—as easy as it is to make fun of the characters, the tropes, the clichés, the writing, and the flaws—it’s still hard to mock them in a genuinely humorous, clever way. The author’s approach simply doesn’t do much for me. In essence, this is fluff. Light, inoffensive, and inconsequential.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not badly written by any means. It’s a fun, light-hearted, quick read. Under other circumstances, it could be entertaining. There’s a nice bit where Jenna basically reconciles with a former friend turned enemy, just by somehow understanding her point of view in a shared moment of emotional sympathy. The story is peppered with other cute moments of teenage life, suggesting that the author has a handle on the little details, if not this particular story. (One severe moment of incongruity: the plot partially revolves around a Tex-Mex restaurant called the Outback, but I daresay most Americans, when they hear that name, think of the chain of Australian-themed steakhouses instead.)
It’s just that this doesn’t hold together as a paranormal romance, a Twilight spoof, or a supernatural parody, and it fails to establish its own identity. This is the sort of book that will be remembered more for what it failed to accomplish than what it was. Instead of rehashing the same old dynamics, we need to keep pushing the boundaries and finding new things to say in a genre filled with infinite possibilities.
Michael M. Jones is a writer, editor, and book reviewer. He lives in Southwest VA, with a pride of cats, way too many books, and a wife who translates Geek-to-Mundane for him. He is the self-proclaimed High Pornomancer of the Golden Horde, and the editor of Scheherazade’s Façade. For more information, visit him and an ever-growing archive of reviews at Schrodinger’s Bookshelf.