The Promise of Amazing
Wren Caswell flies under the radar. She follows the rules, gets fairly decent grades, and takes her job seriously. But Wren is tired of being average. Her grades have slipped in the past few years, and the National Honor Society rejected her application because her teachers describe her as too quiet. Wren bristles at the fact that a lifelong personality trait has kept her from achieving a goal. She wonders whether, instead of attending college, she should take over the family business. They own an event space called the Camelot where they host weddings and other such festivities every weekend. Wren helps out where she is needed, and this often involves walking trays of hors d’oeuvres around the party.
During a weekend wedding that seems to be like any other weekend wedding, Wren has to carry the tray of cocktail weenies. She has no time for the partygoers asking her what she is serving --- there is no elegant way to say “cocktail weenies” --- so she invents a few. She has even less time for the boys who think they are hilarious for calling her names like Weenie Girl. But when one member of this cohort who just happens to be obnoxiously attractive chokes on his cocktail weenie, Wren jumps into action. It is a good thing that she paid attention in health class, because her Heimlich maneuver does the job. Girl has not only met boy, but she has also saved his life. This creates an instant bond between them, and the obnoxiously attractive boy, Grayson, decides to try to get closer to his savior. Thus begins the love story of Wren and Grayson in Robin Constantine’s debut novel, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING.
...a fun, romantic story about coming to terms with your past to create a better future, and the joy and heartbreak that ensues when you find the person who might be able to help you with that.
This book reads like a good episode of GOSSIP GIRL. It’s overly dramatic and the romance is cliché, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to read. It is. The pages fly by as the reader becomes absorbed in the world of Wren and Grayson. It is a world of secret pasts, blackmailing frenemies, a make-out cottage, and an L-bomb dropped way too soon. But underneath all of the drama, it is the story of two young people trying to decide who they want to be. Both Wren and Grayson would like to change certain things about themselves, and they find that their budding relationship brings both of them closer to their ideal selves. Wren wants to break out of her quiet, rule-abiding averageness, and Grayson has just the right amount of devil-may-care charm to make her feel more daring around him. Grayson has just been expelled from prep school for academic fraud, and spending time with someone as upright as Wren makes him feel redeemed.
It’s a classic case of bad boy/good girl. Wren and Grayson narrate alternating chapters, so the reader gets to hear both sides of the story as the romance unfolds. Although Grayson’s internal monologue often describes Wren as though she is saving him from his former, broken self, Wren does not set out to save him. For a large part of the book, she doesn’t know that he needs saving. The trope of “good girl makes bad boy a better person” has been played out in countless books and movies, and can be aggravating when it means that the boy becomes the center of the narrative and the girl only exists to be his support system of one. This is certainly in play here, but is less aggravating than it could be because Wren is also allowed a storyline and character growth. As a result of her relationship with Grayson, she gives herself permission to live her own life outside of the constraints that her parents, teachers, and classmates try to impose upon her.
Wren’s relationship with her two best friends feels realistic; the three of them have different personalities that mesh well together. Grayson and Wren both have interesting family dynamics that help to explain their own motivating fears and desires. Wren has always been overshadowed by a high-achieving older sister and a trouble-making older brother. Grayson’s parents are divorced and his distaste for his stepfather has strained his relationship with his mother. He made the choice to live with his father instead of his mother based on the worry that his father would fall apart without him there. Besides one case of unplanned pregnancy and everyone seeming to forget that abortion would be one option to consider, the family dynamics of each lead character feel truthful and compelling.
THE PROMISE OF AMAZING won’t change your life, but it isn’t trying to do that. It’s just trying to be a fun, romantic story about coming to terms with your past to create a better future, and the joy and heartbreak that ensues when you find the person who might be able to help you with that. In this, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING fulfills its promise.
Reviewed by Caroline Osborn on December 17, 2013