Wednesday, December 11, 2013

{Blog Tour: Guest Post + Review + Giveaway} The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

Today's the day! I've been so excited for so long to be a part of the blog tour for Robin Constantine's The Promise of Amazing. The moment I saw that absurdly adorable cover and read the synopsis, I was sold. First up is my review, then I've got Robin's hilarious guest post about real-life inspirations for parts of the book, and then I've got the giveaway--which is international--for a signed copy of the book plus some swag! Happy reading!

Release date: December 31, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 384
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Edelweiss
Buy the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Kobo
Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.
Funnily enough, I watched Pretty in Pink for the first time the day before I read this book. Somehow, it felt a little bit like serendipity, because, first, I would not have understood the references to it in the book, and, second, it reminded me that my opinion can differ very heavily from the crowd. Weird thing to be reminded of, I know, but the thing is, I kind of hated Pretty in Pink. Everyone loves it, but I just didn't get it. The only good part of it was Duckie lip-synching to "Try a Little Tenderness." And before I started reading The Promise of Amazing, I had read a couple of reviews that scared me. Pretty in Pink is a good lesson for me, though, because it reminded me that I am totally allowed to be as different from others as I choose. (I feel like this is making it out that no one else liked the book, but that's not it at all. It's more about how I was feeling as I picked it up to read. Please no one think that's what I'm saying!! There are lots of very positive reviews, I promise.) That is just a long-winded way of saying I kind of loved The Promise of Amazing!

Wren is average. She's quiet and doesn't speak up in class. She's not the most intelligent girl in her class but she's also in no way stupid. She desperately wants to be talkative in class, but who knows how to do that? Everything in her life seems to take a 180 when she saves the life of Grayson Barrett as he's choking on a cocktail weenie. Grayson is far from perfect either, though. He's a reformed term paper scam artist who got kicked out of his elite private school and he may just be in on much larger illegal activity. Even though they're as different as can be, Wren and Grayson gravitate towards each other. But your past can come back to haunt you, and it's hard to know if young love can survive.

Is it weird that I could love an "average" girl so much? We get so many heroines who think they're average only to find out that they're extraordinary--and through no work or skill of their own--that it's such a relief to read about a girl who is average and only struggles to accept that about herself. She can become more, but it's only through her own hard work and effort. She can't rest on her laurels and expect it to come. No, maybe she'll never go to Harvard, but she can do more than run The Camelot post-college.

And I can't forget Grayson! Sure, the boy's got some slick, jerky lines, but he's got a heart of gold behind them (and behind his stupid boy decisions. I mean, gosh boys are dumb). He seems like a bad boy--and maybe he was--but he desperately wants to change that. I guess getting kicked out of school can do that to you, eh?

My knowing Grayson has a heart of gold is a direct product of the dual narration, a tool that really works here. I think it's important to hear each Wren and Grayson's rationale behind decisions--especially their stupid decisions, because they definitely make some of those--and you need to see certain at-home scenes to get a better handle on their characters. I also think Robin handles their dialogue really well. I read contemporary novels where the characters are just too eloquent and witty to be average teenagers (Sorry, but I'm looking at you John Green. You're entertaining, and sure some teenagers may speak like that, but certainly not anyone I've ever met.), but the conversations here ring true for normally witty teenagers with mostly normal problems.

Yes, the romance developed quickly, and yes, the ending did seem a bit too easy. Both things are true, but they didn't hinder my fun. And that's just it. The Promise of Amazing is a fun and endearing take on first love, a love that shouldn't--and almost doesn't--work.

About Robin:

Robin Constantine is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene.

Her YA debut, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, will be released in 2014 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Find Robin online: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr

Some True Life Inspirations behind THE PROMISE OF AMAZING

Whenever anyone asks me “What inspired you to write The Promise of Amazing?” I usually go blank. It’s not because there isn’t an answer to that question, but because the story is such a mash-up of so many different anecdotes that did inspire it!  Originally I was going to have Wren work at a coffee shop but when I sat down and started to write I realized there’d be a lot more opportunities for character interactions if I used a catering hall.  How did I know this? 

I was a catering waitress at a wedding hall in NJ.  It was a job I had a love/hate relationship with – there’s nothing quite like the fatigue you feel after a weekend of pulling double shifts.  Cater waiting is sort of brutally physical. (Once a co-worker admitted that she was asked if she was a swimmer during a physical exam because one side of her body was much stronger than the other due to carrying the heavy trays!)  I loved it because I worked with such a great group of people who made the job so much fun, at least most of the time.   Here are some parts of The Promise of Amazing that were inspired by people/places/things:

The Camelot 
The catering hall I worked at had a different medieval theme but when it came time to name my fictional wedding hall I knew I wanted it to be something that could be considered a little kitschy in the modern world.  Since Camelot is associated with truth and goodness and beauty – I thought it would be the perfect theme for a reception hall. When the story opens The Camelot is sort of chugging along – an old relic from a time when weddings were simpler and didn’t include things like ice luges, or mashed potato bars or signature drinks named after the bride and groom.  I love that over the course of the story The Camelot gets reinvented, subtly mirroring the theme of not letting your past define you.

The Girl From Ipanema 
The Girl From Ipanema was always one of the first songs played at the cocktail hour by the house band.  Any time I hear this song, it’s like being sucked back in time and I can so clearly see myself, toting trays of hors d’oeuvres around a dimly lit room.  Thankfully I never had to save anyone’s life, but um, I sure did have to deal with some bizarre guests. 

The Rowdy Guys 
At every wedding there was always a group of these guys.  Usually friends of the groom, but could also be comprised of some embarrassing family members.  You know the ones because I’m sure you’ve seen them – usually dancing to Shout! with their ties around their heads by the end of the night.  Mostly harmless, but sometimes go a little too far with the jokes.

Cocktail Weenies 
If you ever watch that show Four Weddings on TLC you’ll know, something as tacky as a cocktail frank would never grace a modern wedding, but these were the rage along with mini-quiches and spanakopita!! 
And yes, in fact, every wedding someone could be counted on asking “And what are these?”  O_o 

Guinevere’s Cottage 
At the catering hall I worked at there was a separate house where bridal parties could have their own private cocktail reception.   Alas…it was not known as the love shack, at least not to my knowledge.  

And to finish, here’s a round up of random facts from my catering days – they are mostly true  can you pick out the false one? 
  • A friend and I mixed up the tiers of two different wedding cakes and only realized it moments before the reception we were working was about to start.
  • Grayson is based on a co-worker who was involved in an Amsterdam-type scheme.
  • I served bowls of flaming cherries jubilee to the Star Wars Cantina song.
  • A man once gave me twenty dollars to fetch him a turkey carcass so he could play a joke on another wedding guest.
  • The NJ band The Feelies were guests at a wedding and played a few songs during the reception.
  • One of my former co-workers played a role on the TV show Ghost Whisperer

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