She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen
After an epic loss on the basketball court to her ex-girlfriend and her new team, followed by an embarrassing fender bender with her enemy, Scottie needs a win. She needs something to get her groove back. Turns out her enemy (and head cheerleader) needs something too. Together, the two decide on a fake dating relationship—Scottie gets a fanbase for her team (and gets to sock it to her ex) and Irene gets that extra bump she’ll need to win Student Athlete of the Year and get a scholarship to her dream school. Too bad feelings weren’t included in this bargain…
“God, your hands are sweaty.”
“And yours are as cold as your heart.”
Ooooh I loved this so much. It was more than I had anticipated, as I thought I was getting a fairly standard enemies-to-lovers romance with sports, but instead I got a thoughtful dive into relationships, particularly—the grief process and moving past unhealthy relationships.
Scottie is truly fucked up. She kinda knows it, but her ex did a number on her—and she was so wrapped into her ex (I can’t remember her name, but she was awful) that she didn’t realize how fucked up she was. Emotional abuse and manipulation can really put a number on someone prone to codependency, as Scottie is. So being dumped (rather harshly), plus teen mind, can make things get. Well. A lot.
Which made the first part of Scottie and Irene’s relationship really awkward, since there was a solid kinda-not-really-blackmail/I’m paying you for this aspect to it, but I did like how it was resolved in the end. Because I wasn’t sure how the whole “I’m going to give you $1000 to cover the copay for your truck so you’re mom won’t get pissed off, but you have to agree to fake-date me to get fans for my basketball team and fuck with my ex) was going to play out.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
She shoots me a smile that to everyone else probably looks flirtatious, but to me seems to say this is such bullshit and these people are idiots and I might kill you but I haven’t decided yet.
I loved the way the mean popular girl trope was played out. The previous year, after one really awful party where Scotty accidentally spilled a drink on Irene and Irene had Scotty’s car towed as revenge…well. That was a lot. Because there was a solid bullying aspect to the book, and as Scotty slowly develops feelings for her enemy, she has to juggle the aspects of what it means about her, that she falls for people who have hurt her or have the capacity to hurt her.
However, I kinda wish the book had been split into two POVs, because while we had a lot of Scotty and got a solid glimpse of Irene, I really, really wanted to get into Irene’s head.
She was driven to prove herself in any way possible, and she navigated being popular—and also the object of hatred by so many, including true mean girl Charlotte, while also battling homophobia mixed with racist undertones. I did love that Irene was out with her parents, who supported her and trusted her, and out with select friends, and the courage it took to step out and be out to the school, even though she was raked through the coals by those who declared her being gay was a publicity stunt so she could win SAOTY as a cheerleader (which had never been done before, because people didn’t think cheerleading was a sport). I also liked how smart she, and how unrepentantly she threw barbs at Scotty, until she was finally like, “look, I’m tired, I’ve had a rough day, and while this is cute and all, can we not for just like, two seconds?”
“You don’t get to treat me like some escort for hire. I understand that to you I’m just some ‘hot girl’ with social capital, and for the most part, I’ve let you get away with that, but this is too far. I’m a person with feelings and boundaries. Get your head out of your ass and respect that, or we’re done.”
And I loved that Irene was very good at establishing boundaries (the reason for this is a mild spoiler, but let’s just say that Irene has been through what Scotty is going through). She knows what healthy relationships look like, and she’s unwilling to flex for one that is unhealthy no matter what she feels…but she’s willing to wait for Scotty to get into a right place.
She does not let Scottie fuck with her, although it is hard for her to admit when she has done wrong or been wrong, because in some cases (like the truck towing incident), it’s easier to take the hits for a misunderstanding and be perceived as a bully instead admitting what it was really about. Airing your dirty laundry is hard.
“Oh, you’re right, you’re the only person our age who’s really into eighties music. I forgot how exceptionally unique you are.”
Another thing I loved was how into classic romantic teen comedies Scottie was (although it physically hurt to hear the teen comedies of my youth—I’m talking late 90s early 00s being referred to as classics), and how much she loved eighties music. It was a fun twist on how a lot of YA protagonists enjoy the music/media their authors enjoyed as children (always played to make the MC be quirky or whatever) instead of whatever is popular with the youths of today. And I loved how Irene called Scottie out on it.
But, despite the elbow-jabbing of hey hey yes this is a thing YA authors are known to do, this book was a delightful love letter to those teenage comedies of the 80s, 90s and early 00s.
The excoriating secondhand embarrassment, the heavy emotional feels, the slapstick comedy, the friend circles (I loved Scottie’s friends, and Honey Belle…she grew on me like Gretchen Wieners), the way the relationships played out, the sports homages, and the final, kitschy reveal at the end. It was the wholesome, nostalgic feels of those movies made queer and renovated to be relevant today, and oh, it was so queer and lovely.
Plus, there is some serious mom-bonding, and it was fantastic. Okay, so maybe this was meant for adults in their 30s who needed this book as a child in order to help put thoughts of queerness, identity, comebacks, forgiveness, healthy relationships and grieving over ended relationships into order, but it’s still fantastic.
And incredibly funny. Because I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this, in this incredibly overlong and convoluted review, but the chemistry between Irene and Scotty is THERE.
Their banter? *chef’s kiss*
OMG AND HOW DID I FORGET THERE’S A ONE-BED TROPE?!?!?!?
“Goodnight. Touch me and you die.”
Two final quotes, because this book, while hilarious and great, was also deeply touching and thoughtful:
You will move through life and fall in love with many different people, and at some point, you will get your heart broken. It’s unavoidable. The key is to not be afraid of the breaking. People break our hearts, but they create more room in them first, and that room makes it possible for us to become more ourselves.
Because before you can worry about who’s in your passenger seat, you have to learn to drive yourself.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
She Drives Me Crazy releases April 20, 2021, from Roaring Brook Press