After writing Young Adult Education and reading a YA book almost every week for over two years, I’ve begun to develop a list of the things that will make me love a book. Is there a lot of music? I’ll probably love it. Is the narrator a girl who’s itching to get out of her town? That sounds like my thing. Is there a summer camp involved? Then I am 100% in. Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs had all those things, plus a dose of shimmery, magical possibility that reminded me of what being a teenager was actually like. In short, I’m in love with this book.
When Gloria signs up to take the class Mysteries of the Written Word at a summer camp for gifted and talented students, she doesn’t know what to expect. All she knows is that she has to give up all gadgets–cell phones, computers, etc.–and be away from her BFF Carol for the summer. She and Carol have a post-graduation plan to blow the popsicle stand known as Kentucky and hightail it to New York.
First, though, comes Geek Camp, where Gloria ends up spending her time with her not-all-that-mysterious instructor X and three classmates. There’s beautiful and dramatic Chloe, quiet and goodhearted Calvin, and Mason. Gloria hates Mason so much that she sort of likes him, so it’s perfect that they end up performing a scene from Much Ado About Nothing later in the book (Beatrice and Benedick are the ultimate embodiment of that rom-com cliché, enemies who fall in love). Mason is pretty great, even if he does wear a green top hat at first, which is just a monocle and a few nonfunctional gears away from being way too steam punk for me. No offense to those of you who like steam punk–I probably like about 50 things you think are weird (the collected works of Cher, for starters), so let’s consider ourselves even.
The short description of the plot is that Gloria goes to Geek Camp and learns a lot about life and herself, and that probably made you just fall asleep, right? Well, wake yourself back up, because I swear, although this book is definitely quiet, it has enough emotional drama to make any introspective YA reader fall in love. What made Breakfast Served Anytime stand out to me so much was the overall summer-before-senior-year feeling it embodied. Gloria is a girl who’s so ready to break free of her town and experience the world, and Geek Camp is her first taste of the excitement and wonder the world has in store for her. I also went to a nerdy camp the summer before my senior year, and to say it was transformative would be an understatement. I was around weirdos who not only liked the same stuff I did, but who also knew about all these different things and had all these different experiences. The world I knew cracked open and I was able to see that there was a bigger, more exciting world beyond it that I never even knew existed. That’s the experience Gloria has when she meets her Geek Camp friends. It’s kind of like The Secret History, but way less murder-y.
Breakfast Served Anytime is a book about finding yourself, finding your home, and taking leaps. It’s also about how people are complex and everyone has his/her own story. It reminded me of why I love YA and why I keep coming back to it–it’s about a transformative time in our lives, when we’re figuring out who we are, what our place in the world is, and how we relate to other people. There’s nothing more exciting than growing up and deciding who you want to be, is there? It also reminded me, a grown ass woman, how much wonder is still in the world. I can’t recommend this book enough.
-This book takes place in Kentucky. I instantly love a book more if it takes place in a non-New York, non-California location. Just like Gloria’s friend Sonya says, “I get sick of everybody acting like there’s California, and then there’s New York, and nothing worthwhile happens in between. There’s a whole huge fascinating country in between, is what there is.” So true. Breakfast Served Anytime made me want to drive straight to Kentucky, even though the sum total of my Kentucky experiences involve seeing concerts right over the state line and watching the movie Elizabethtown about a million times (it’s a terrible, perfect movie with a sublime soundtrack and I’ll fight anyone who suggests otherwise).
-Sarah Combs is a ridiculously good writer. I mean, this is the kind of writing you read and think, “Oh, geez, I’ll never in a trillion years be this good.” Her dialogue crackles with believability and her sentences just plain sparkle. I planned on quoting a few lines here, but you know what? It’s impossible to choose. You’re just going to have to read it and see what I mean.
-Could there have been more romance in Breakfast Served Anytime? Sure. Of course, I think literally any book could be improved by inserting a few more makeout scenes, but that’s just me. There’s definitely plenty of romantic tension here, but it isn’t the over-the-top, dramatic kind I know and love…instead, it’s just realistic. Gloria talks a lot about what she calls that “night before the museum feeling,” the belief that anticipation can sometimes be even better than the event itself, and that’s definitely the attitude the book takes towards love. There’s a lot more thinking and daydreaming and awkward-conversation-having instead of hot and heavy makeouts, and that’s exactly what being a teenager was like (for me, anyway).
-Normally I’d let you know how you could find Sarah Combs on the internet, but SARAH COMBS IS UNFINDABLE! Seriously, she has no Twitter page or fancy-schmancy author website. I’m intrigued but also annoyed that I can’t just tweet praise at her constantly until she blocks me.
What about you guys? Have you read Breakfast Served Anytime? Do you have any other realistic YA to recommend? Let me know in the comments, send me an email at email@example.com or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.