Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Review of The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen
Publisher: Speak
Released: February 16th 2012
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss in this charming romantic comedy

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?
(from Goodreads)

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare was an enjoyable contemp, but did have its faults. I struggled to connect with the main character and found some things a bit unrealistic and cliché (for example, the way the lunchroom was divided and how all the groups had special names like “The Bees” and “The Stars” – really? It was a bit much). However, it was a pretty cute and fun read, and I think it’d be worth checking out if you’re already a big fan of contemps. However, if you’re just starting out with genre, maybe give it a miss.

The main character Ella, truth be told, annoyed me a lot of the time. She was naive, a bit of a pushover and was a little...boring. I mean, she didn’t seem to watch TV or movies, and she didn’t understand any pop culture references. It was weird. I couldn’t imagine a teen actually like her, it was a bit unbelievable – especially the conversations she had with Edward Willing, her favourite artist, who was dead. She spoke to him as if he were real. At first I found it funny and quirky, but...he was just there so much. And Ella gave Edward an actual persona, where he told her off, or tried to tell her what the best thing to do was...and the whole time, I was just thinking “But he’s you. You made him up. How can you listen to what he’s saying when REALLY, it’s what YOU’RE saying to yourself?” I mean, the funny thing was, I really liked Edward’s character. He seemed like a carefree, “what you see is what you get” kind of person, and was actually really funny. Then I remembered he was a figment of Ella’s imagination and questioned how he had more character than she did... And, just a personal thing, but Ella didn’t know where “live long and prosper” came from. I’m not a mega-huge Star Trek fan, but I do really like it, and that hurt me guys. Hurt me deep :P.  She wasn’t all bad though. She could be really funny on occasion – the scene where she found out that Alex was going to be her tutor had be laughing out loud, and there were various other parts where she showed her sense of humour. I also liked the effort she put into her art research, going through all of Edward’s letters and notes and things. She seemed to be a dedicated and hard-working person.

Alex felt underdeveloped to me. We didn’t really find out much about him at all. He was definitely sweet at times, and I could see why Ella liked him, but I felt like his character wasn’t really fleshed out. I wanted to get to know him more – and granted, there were attempts to add depth to his character, like the fact he felt his parents were always busy and that he didn’t really want to study law – but it wasn’t enough. I mean, it would have been fine if the book were shorter, but for the length, I expected a more developed character. I felt like he could have been any nice boy in any book. And why on earth was he going out with Amanda? We only ever saw her horrible side, so it was hard for me to believe that he could actually have liked her, unless she really did have a nicer side we never saw, or she faked her personality throughout their whole relationship. Or that he was just interested I her looks - but he didn’t seem the type to only go for a pretty face and not care about personality. But all that being said, he understood that Ella was the one who struggled to like herself, and he did seem to care about her. He also didn’t let his money go to his head and wasn’t arrogant or selfish – so he got points for not being a jerk and judging Ella for being on scholarship. I did like him, but wished we had seen more of him in the book.

The two characters I loved the most were Frankie and his brother Daniel (and Daniel only showed up three or four times in total). Frankie was just awesome – hilarious and fun to be with, and I could understand why he got angry with Ella – he was used to always being with her, and was upset she’d lied to him. Daniel, however, was the most intriguing. He was mysterious, didn’t seem to care what anyone thought and was actually confident and knew what he wanted. I really, really wanted to see more of him, but alas, it was not to be. He showed up, said some stuff that made everyone raise their eyebrows, gave Ella some advice, and then left. He was very different to Frankie, but equally as awesome.

The pacing was something I had real trouble with. It took half the book for something actually to happen – i.e., Ella finding out Alex would be her tutor. And then from that point, that’s when things started to get more interesting. A relationship of sorts developed between Ella and Alex, and the second half of the book was a lot better than the first. Faster paced, funnier and with more things happening. The ending was pretty good too and I like how things ended for everyone.

Overall, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare was disappointing for me (the summary stating it was “Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss” was definitely misleading), but it wasn’t a terrible book and could still be enjoyed by contemporary lovers.
Don't forget to visit Cait's blog for her post today and remember you can still enter our giveaways and nominate your favourite contemp titles here.


  1. Aww. Wish you'd enjoyed this more! But I do agree - it took FOREVER for anything to happen. I think I was more invested in this story because I could relate to Ella's family and the areas in the book are familiar to me.

    Nice review! Hopefully there are better contemps to come your way. :)

  2. Dang! I thought this one looked so cute. I like how you've broken it down and so can lower my expectations. ;)

  3. I definitely expected a lot from this, so I'm kinda sad it didn't really deliver. I've heard a lot of people say the MC was hard to like, and I hate a boring love interest. Probs wont bother with this one!

    Cait x

  4. I think I'm going to pass on this one :( It sounds ALRIGHT but I kind of want more than 'alright' nowadays :P That is so weird about her made-up persona being more interesting than her actual character. Like, what does that say about you?! Alex sounds sweet but it's a shame that you didn't get to see more angles of him. Is this a stand-alone? Great review, Liz! <3


  5. I think I'm going to pass on this one now . . . sounds really disappointing and I was really, really looking forward to it too since the whole "Pretty in Pink meets Anna and the French Kiss" hook HOOKED me from the start. Anyway nice and honest review!

  6. O..... kay. LOL the whole Ella/Edward thing definitely sounds weird and I TOTALLY understand your point about the whole cliche school groups thing... that kinda bugs me in books. Maybe it really IS like that in the US, but here? Sure we have more popular groups of friends, but everyone is scattered in so many different areas, none of the whole 'art geeks' 'jocks' etc.

    Anyway, I hear you... I was expecting something amazing since it was likened to the mother of all contemporaries, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS <3 Really disappointing that this falls quite short. I'm glad it was still an okay read though! Fab review!


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