Famous Last Words by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski.
Page Count: 288.
Published: July 2, 2013.
Published by: Henry Holt.
Source: Received from Raincoast Books in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thanks, Raincoast!
Sixteen-year-old Samantha D’Angelo has death on the brain. Her summer internship at the local newspaper has her writing obituaries instead of soaking up the sun at the beach. Between Shelby, Sam’s boy-crazy best friend; her boss Harry, a true-blue newspaper man; and AJ, her fellow “intern scum” (aka the cute drummer for a band called Love Gas), Sam has her hands full. But once she figures out what—or who—is the best part of her summer, will she mess it all up?
As Sam learns her way around both the news room and the real world, she starts to make some momentous realizations about politics, ethics, her family, romance, and most important—herself.
I don't love a lot of contemporary novels because I find many of them all feel the same to me. Famous Last Words is definitely an exception to that. It covers, over the course of a summer, a growing phase in a young girl's life that finally sets her on her path. The story is told with humour and heart and I adored every moment of it.
Sam is a fantastic main character in that she is so perfectly average. This isn't a story about her "becoming the chosen one" or "achieving her destiny" or anything extraordinary like that. She's just a normal girl working a summer job that ignites a fire in her (in more ways than one). I absolutely adored Sam. She's the type of girl I could definitely see myself being best friends with, and those are the types of characters that are always fun to read about. I felt like I could totally connect with her; she loves 80s movies, is a bit of an introvert, and tries really hard to please everyone in her life, especially her parents. Throughout the whole book I felt like she was talking right to me, as if we were friends chatting and being funny about the goings-on in our lives. I even felt like I could talk back and tell her she was being blind towards a certain boy's advances (but then, who hasn't been like that at some point?). It was so encouraging to see her grow and begin to realize where she really wanted to be in life and then finally take the steps to get there. I was rooting for her the whole way. Her sense of humour was really enjoyable; a little self-deprecating, occasionally snarky, and overall very relatable. I loved her as main character and as narrator and wish she could actually be my new best friend.
The newspaper office as the primary setting for the story was very interesting in that it's so original for me. I don't think I've ever read another book that takes place in that kind of setting, let alone a YA book. I loved getting an inside look at the workings of a local newspaper and getting caught up in the mysterious scandal that they try to expose. It was a great environment to read about and made for a perfect setting. Getting to know Sam's co-workers was fun because they're all so distinct in personality. Everyone in the office just seemed very real, as if you could meet someone like any of them at any time. I especially enjoyed AJ as a character and his interaction and friendship with Sam. It was so genuine and I think Doktorski handled their awkward phase very realistically. I think I enjoyed all the characters in the novel even more because of the way Sam helps you get to know everyone. It was done so well that I felt like I was right there in the room with them. That's one thing that Doktorski has excelled at with this novel: making you feel like you're a part of it. A lot of the time I didn't feel like I was reading a book, I felt like I was watching a friend's life unfold.
All in all, this was a cute and fun read about a main character that shines for just being herself and figuring out where she fits in her world. With a lively and entertaining cast of characters in a very original setting for YA lit, this book is definitely not just another contemporary.