The Pastel Effect
by Arly Carmack
Caroline seems like a typical high school sophomore. She has a best friend, a crush, and the coolest dad a girl could ever ask for. But she also has something inside of her that she knows doesn’t belong. Something that casts a shadow over her adolescent rites of passage. Something she’d rather not name for fear that it will become too real. She knows it lives in her mind — the self-doubt, the sadness, the feeling that all is doomed, that everyone leaves, and that maybe it’s her fault. It flips on as easily as a switch, and it can burn out as fast as a match, but it’s always there, waiting.
Cody feels the pressure from everyone in his life. His parents expect an academically capable athlete. His friends want the life-of-the-party. He tries to be everything for everyone and loses himself somewhere along the way. He’s amused by Caroline, someone so completely unlike him that he can’t help but fall for her. In a world where being himself feels wrong, he finds the acceptance he longs for in their friendship.
The challenges of entering adulthood are amplified as Caroline faces her illness and Cody encounters a life-changing situation that tests everything he has ever known. Will their obstacles tear them apart or force them together?
The story begins with Caroline, a high school sophomore who lives with her dad. Her mom passed away when she was a young child and it’s been her and her dad ever since. She’s fallen head over heals for a boy at school (Cody), but their friendship is confusing, and Caroline struggles with him because of his fickle nature. As she navigates through their sometimes difficult relationship, she struggles with mental illness, deals with the past, and wonders about the future.
“There I was, alone on the street while everyone else was inside watching the parade and preparing for a feast and complaining that it was too early for the Christmas commercials on television. My mother was in a box in the ground too far away to even visit. I wondered if my grandmother put flowers on it like she promised she would.“
Caroline’s struggle felt real, and the entire story is believable. Her family relationship is heartwarming, and I fell in love with their wisdom and kindness toward one another. They’re caring people and very accepting of others.
“He smiled, then he kissed my cheek. I knew that no matter what happened with Cody, I had one of the best dads in the world, and suddenly Gram and Gramp were the best, too, because they made him. I went to bed that night thanking God that I had the family I did. It didn’t matter what I had lost, I knew that I was lucky for what I still had.”
Caroline was well fleshed out, but there was one thing I craved: more about Cody. He’s not a likable character, and by the time we get his perspective, it’s in the future when so much has changed. Maybe it would’ve been better to get more of Cody’s perspective throughout the story which would’ve led into more about his behavior and made him a little more redeemable. There were a few other characters I wanted to know more about too.
The story itself was quite emotional for me; it sort of took me back to my high school days because of the younger cast of characters and the coming of age story. It felt real, and even though the book was slow at times, I was invested in the characters, and it didn’t matter to me. The late twist was totally unexpected and a little hard to digest, but the author did a nice job pulling it all together in the end.
This book did capture my heart. The writing is beautiful, and there are many memorable quotes. It kept my attention from beginning to end.
- Publisher : Independently published (November 3, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-13 : 979-8557298711
Thanks for reading my review! Have you read any good YA recently? What are you reading this week? Let’s chat in the comments section below.