Title: The Story of Awkward
Author: R. K. Ryals
Publisher: Smashwords Edition
Source: Gift from mom
Check this book out on Goodreads.
Peregrine Storke is an artist with an odd sketchbook full of pictures she’s drawn since she was a child. It is a book full of strange sketches and awkward characters, for there is no better way to hide from bullying and life than to create a world of your own. With a stroke of her pencil, she has given life to a spectacled princess, a freckle-nosed king, a candy loving troll, a two-horned unicorn, and a graceless fairy.
At nineteen, Peregrine leaves her home, her sketchbook, and awkwardness behind. But what happens when something goes wrong in the world of Awkward? Trapped inside of her complex realm with the bully she thought to leave behind, Peregrine discovers there is nothing worse than falling for your own villain. (Source: Goodreads)
Peregrine Storke has always been awkward. She was too fat, and then she was too thin. Her best friend’s brother mocked her and made her the laughing stock of the school. Her parents, mentally ill alcoholics, treated her poorly and made her own mental health worse. She created a world of her own where she felt safe, and now she’s been sucked into that world, along with her lifelong tormentor, after a near death experience. Together they’ll have to save the world of Awkward, and themselves, before Perfection lures them away from their true nature.
I enjoyed this book so much. It was so surprising and such a pleasure to read. The message is great, the story is interesting, the journey is fun, with room for imagination, and the characters have interesting backstories that are easily relatable. To be perfectly honest this book has a lot of flaws, the quality of the actual writing being the biggest one. While Ryals created a fantastic story her actual skill wasn’t up to the challenge of relating it as well as it could have been. Using your own imagination you can fill in the blanks where Ryals fails to meet the challenge. The book is so enjoyable that I basically overlooked all of the problems while I was reading. Even though I can see them now I still enjoyed the book too much to lower the rating.
The plot of this book is so interesting and really great. Basically Peregrine didn’t have a great childhood, she was plagued by body issues and constant bullying. She creates an imaginary world of friends that she draws. Now, as she leaves for university she leaves that world behind. But when she nearly dies she’s pulled into the world to save it from the threat of the loss of individuality that is going to happen to everyone in Awkward. Her friend’s brother, who was trying to save her life, gets pulled through too and they band together to save her world. This plot is so much fun, and it certainly gets you emotionally invested. Everyone is awkward, and a little different, so we can all relate to a feeling of belonging in a place like Awkward. I thought it was a really sweet story that teaches you to be true to who you are. I did find things got a little complicated, and at points poorly explained. To me it seemed like Ryles got a little bit ahead of herself in the story and just forgot to put in explanations for things that maybe made sense to her, but not to her reader. In the end all of these lacking explanations kind of come together and get sorted a little. There were a few bits I didn’t like at all. The Prologue was so fast it didn’t go the backstory justice, it was just kind of like “well here she is, she’s damaged” and you don’t get a chance to connect with Perri properly. The other was the last chapter, not the Epilogue, but the last actual chapter was just completely unnecessary and added absolutely nothing to the story so it made the ending weird.
The characters are all really interesting. Perri grew up hating herself because of verbal abuse from her parents and being bullied. She initially puts on a lot of weight and then develops bulimia. She becomes very ill because of the bulimia and goes into therapy and is hospitalized. At the beginning of the book she is doing much better because of the therapy and is going to school for art. She’s created this world of her own, but is leaving it behind. Her best friend, Camilla, was also bullied because of her red hair and freckles. Camilla’s brother, Foster, used to tease Perri in school and so Perri has villainized him in her world. He is a soldier and has just finished some tours in Afghanistan. Perri learns during their time together that he’s suffering from the guilt of having killed people and left people behind while at war, he’s likely suffering from PTSD but this isn’t said in the book. The characters in Awkward are reflections of Perri, the princess Elspeth has glasses, loves birds, and is basically Perri’s sister. Her prince is based on the boyfriend Perri had in high school. All of these characters are developed well so that really connect with them and their “awkward”. I definitely really liked the characters and enjoyed how they developed into these strong people by the end of the book.
One thing that’s fantastic in this book is that their is no damsel in distress. Everyone in this book is saving themselves and saving each other. Perri’s progress does depend on Foster to some extent but only to the extent that he can save her with his physical strength, and she can save him with her known how in her own world. He is also helping her develop into a stronger person by offer her a face to forgive for her tormenting during childhood. This was all really great because he never saves her completely and she never saves him completely. Elspeth is a great character because while she was essentially a princess who relied on her prince she realizes, with Perri and Foster’s help that she doesn’t need Prince Dash to be strong. Which was really cool.
The world of Awkward is really interesting. I think it needed someone who can write setting a little more strongly than Ryles. But even with her rather poor descriptions of the land you can fill in the blanks and create the world in your head. This story was definitely one that felt like it could use a movie. The world is very visual and would work so well as a movie (animated or live action) and would just look great.
One thing that I think Ryals also didn’t do so well was handling the topic of mental health. A big part of her story relies on the idea that Perri’s dad is bipolar. I don’t think she handled it well. Calling him “mentally unstable” was kind of weird. I also don’t think the bipolar matched the description of him up to that point and was just pulled out of no where. I also think Perri’s own mental health should have been addressed further, as well as Foster’s possible PTSD. I don’t think Ryals had the tools to do this however, and I’m almost glad she didn’t touch it because I don’t think she was equipped to do so.
Overall, despite all the issues I had with this book, I kind of loved it. There was just something really fantastic about the story and the characters that hooked me in. I think I could identify the issues but also realized there wasn’t anything Ryals could do, her ideas are great but her writing is simple not up to par with her ideas. I still would recommend this, it’s worth a read.