Title: The Unexpected Everything
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 3rd 2016
Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything, her latest contemporary novel, is in a word delightful. It has so many of the elements I look for in a contemporary book, from an organic romance to complicated family relationships to an emphasis on strong female friendships. Andie has her summer all planned out, but life doesn’t always work out the way you want. Her father’s being investigated for embezzlement which means she by extension has become a pariah, resulting in her summer plans completely falling through. When she becomes convinced that this is about to be the worst summer of her life, she meets Clark and ends up accepting a job offer as a dog walker.
Andie has a very contentious relationship with her father, stemming from his devotion to his job and the fact that ever since her mother passed away years ago, he hasn’t been around. Of all the relationships in this novel, this is the one that moved me the most. Andie’s father isn’t sure how to interact with his daughter anymore and Andie is certain her life would be better if he’d stop pretending that he cares about what goes on in hers. There is a lot of tension between the two, but I was glad to see that although Andie has a lot of resentment toward her father, she was open enough toward him that they could begin to restore their relationship.
Andie’s group of friends is a vital part of her life. With a largely absent father, she’s spent the last few years relying more and more on them. Palmer, Toby, Bri, and Andie (and sometimes Palmer’s boyfriend Tom) are a single unit. They share nearly everything, talking about both the trivial and serious issues in their lives. Each has their own personality and I really appreciated how much life Matson breathed into these secondary characters. My personal favorite was Toby, she added such a delightful touch of humor to the narrative and her sometimes flighty ways were very much endearing. Matson introduces a certain storyline that really challenges the easygoing dynamic between these friends and I’m really hoping that she has a spin-off in store for us because I must know more.
Clark was immediately a character I liked. He was shy, a little socially awkward, and irresistibly nerdy. While both Andie and Clark seem quite taken with each other, they didn’t hit it off on the first go and I liked seeing how Matson used this circumstance to give a more well-rounded look at both characters. The two slowly get to know each other and both have moments where they pull away from the other, not quite willing to show their vulnerable side. But they also find opportunity to let down those walls that keep them from experiencing all the benefits to be had from an emotionally intimate relationship.
I was a little skeptical of a 500+ page contemporary novel, but the story is well-paced and never feels like it’s dragging. The Unexpected Everything is full of characters you’ll learn to care about, who don’t always make the best decisions, but whose relationships you’ll find yourself fully invested in by the end.