Monday, October 3, 2016

Interference by Kay Honeyman, 2016

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Friday Night Lights meets Jane Austen's Emma in this wonderful novel about a big election, big games, the big state of Texas, and a little romance.
As a Congressman's daughter in Washington, DC, Kate Hamilton is good at getting what she wants -- what some people might call "interfering." But when her family moves to West Texas so her dad can run in a special election, Kate encounters some difficulties that test all her political skills. None of her matchmaking efforts go according to plan. Her father's campaign gets off to a rough start. A pro tip for moving to Texas: Don't slam the star quarterback's hand in a door. And whenever Kate messes up, the irritatingly right (and handsome) Hunter Price is there to witness it. But Kate has determination and a good heart, and with all her political savvy -- and a little clever interference -- she'll figure out what it takes to make Red Dirt home.
Terrifically funny and sweetly romantic, with whip-crack dialogue and a wise perspective on growing up, Interference is the perfect next read for fans of Jenny Han, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth Eulberg, or Sarah Dessen.

(352 pages)

Last year in AP English, I wrote a huge paper on themes of education in Jane Austen's Emma for a scholarship competition. I analyzed the novel, dissected the motives of all the various characters, and described how they related to each other through their various relationships to education. In the process of writing this paper, I took a book I'd already read multiple times and cemented every exquisite detail of its plot and characters into my brain for posterity.

That's why I quickly deduced that Interference is not just like Emma (as the description implies) but that it must actually be based on it.

What other explanation can there be when there are so similarities between the two books? Sure, on the surface they're very different - one's about a self-absorbed socialite who entertains herself by playing matchmaker and the other's about a disheartened politician's daughter who puts a "spin" on things to help people get what they want - but under the surface they're deliciously similar. I won't go into exactly how, because that would ruin many of the plot points in Interference, but if you've ever read Emma then it will be hard not to spot at least some of the parallels between the two books.

Interference is definitely its own story, though - and I love it for it. Who wants to read a book that's just a complete knock-off of a different book, even if the first book is one of the best novels on the planet? Honeyman brings so many new elements to the table that Influence stands wonderfully on its own two feet. I love Kate, who's simultaneously clever/confident and oblivious/insecure. I realize those are opposite descriptions, but somehow it's true: she is confident in her abilities to smooth her way through life with people, but also oblivious to the intricacies of the completely new culture she's been thrown into and insecure about her place in her family as her father drops her altogether from his campaign. I usually dislike main characters who are slick people-readers, because they get annoying and too full of themselves; that's so not Kate, and it's great to watch her stumble around figuring out what to do with herself.

The other characters are great, too. Hunter (*cough*Mr. Knightley*cough*) is particularly fun to read about. Kate's family is staying with her aunt, who runs an animal shelter of sorts; Kate helps out with the animals to get extra credit hours so she can beat out her cheating ex in competition for a hard-to-get college recommendation letter, and in doing so she's forced to work alongside Hunter. They're also paired up in science class, so they basically spend almost all of their time together. It's sweet seeing how Kate grows to trust Hunter, how he acts as her safety net over and over again, even though they're fighting almost constantly (usually about Kate's latest well-meaning but terrible plots to make people's lives better). Then there's Ana, a social outcast (ostracized after her ex spread dirty rumors about her) whom Kate meets in yearbook and quickly adopts as her best friend. Both Kate and Ana love photography (and I mean, like, professionally love it), and Kate learns a lot about how to find the soul in pictures by watching Ana at work. There's also Kyle, star football player and son of the man who's running against Kate's father. Kyle's a complicated character, he really is, and I loved how he was never put into a stereotypical box (even when there were several he could have very easily fallen into).

I could go on and on about the various characters and all of the different storylines (which include Kate's search for "soulful" pictures to put in her college application portfolio, the drama surrounding the local football team's run in the playoffs, and her father's campaign, which was actually really interesting in and of itself), but I might as well stop here or no one is actually going to read this whole review. I initially went into Interference expecting a fluffy, meaningless romance, but I wound up instead with a deep novel about authenticity, love, friendship, and - above all - digging past the mask and finding out who you really are. It truly is a wonderful book, and I'm so glad I got the chance to read it. I am most definitely holding on to my copy and rereading it in the future; in fact, after spending all this time thinking about it while I wrote the review I think I need to revisit it right now. Excuse me while I go do that . . .

Disclaimer: I received an unsolicited ARC of this novel from the publisher.

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