Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein Review

book review

Unfortunately, this book did not hit all the right notes for me.

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein follows high school senior June who hitches a ride with a family friend’s son on the way to school every day. After a few awkward interactions, June and Oliver decide to play music on the way to school to fill the silence. The deal? June adds a song every time that she convinces Oliver that high school does not matter, but Oliver adds a song to the playlist every time he convinces June otherwise.

I was interested in Shuffle, Repeat because the plot sounded like a cute contemporary. The music sharing part of the story reminded me of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, which is my favorite YA contemporary book. However, this book failed to meet several of my expectations and came across as another bland, standard YA contemporary to me.

I think my biggest issue in this book was the main character, June. This main character definitely suffers from not-like-other-girls syndrome. Even though she berates high school for its hierarchy, she is the one who stereotypes all of the other characters in this book. For example, she is surprised whenever Oliver uses advanced vocabulary because she believes she is much smarter than him because he plays football. While June does develop friendships with people outside her clique as the story progresses, her maturity never reaches that point as she expresses many of those same stereotypes (like her surprise at Oliver’s intelligence) through the end of the book. I never connected with June because not only did her voice feel inauthentic for a high school student, but her actions rarely matched what she preached. Here a few quotes that highlight June’s inauthenticity and inconsistencies for me:

Belatedly, I remember that Oliver might not follow my advanced vocabulary, and I dial it back so he’ll understand. “It’s too much.”

“Underneath?” I practically explode. “There’s nothing underneath. Your music is overly produced and overly cliché!” I point a finger at him. “It totally makes sense.” “How’s that?” Oliver still doesn’t seem mad. Only amused. “That you would be into that. It’s manufactured and it’s fake!”

It’s not because we’re geeks and it’s not because we buy into some sort of outdated hierarchy of popularity.” “I never said—” “It’s because we’re better than it.”

“You’re kind of like an extra gay boyfriend, except you’re straight.” Oliver frowns. “Or I can be your straight guy friend…since that’s what I actually am.” “It’s just that it so rarely works.”

As for the other characters in the novel, they are not developed past the stereotypes in which June describes them. Besides the love interest, Oliver, which the most complex and interesting character in the novel, the rest of the characters missed the mark. I do not like leaving a book where I can summarize a character with one word or trope. However, that’s how I can describe most of June’s acquaintances in this story. There’s Theo, the dumb and sexist jock. There’s Ainsley, who while I had high hopes that the author would change the conniving cheerleader stereotype, fulfilled that role by the end of the novel. There’s Itch (yes, that really was his name), with the same “nothing matters” philosophy as June. Finally, there are June’s other friends only known for their respective sexualities. It confused me that a book that sought to dismantle many high school stereotypes actually managed to reinforce every single one.

As for the plot, the story plays out like many other young adult books that I’ve read. However, this book was not as successful for me. While this is an easy read that you can finish in one day, you have probably read this story and enjoyed it more in another book. Since this book is based on supporting or refuting the importance of the high school experience, you get a loose connection of football games, senior pranks, and proms. I think in a few months I will probably forget a lot about this book.

Overall, Shuffle, Repeat is an easy and quick read. If you really enjoy contemporary, this may be a book to check out. However, I would skip this one if contemporary really isn’t your thing because it probably contains all the tropes you like to avoid in the genre. I give this book two out of four stars.

 

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