My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak

This is actually the best YA novel that I hve read in a while, specifically in the romance genre. I had no expectations when I picked this story up, but I was left flabbergasted. 

When you read the back cover, you can’t help but expect it to be a cheesy romance for a broken girl. BUT IT’S SOOOOO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. Yes there’s romance and our main character is broken after losing her family, but Novak takes it so much deeper to the point of tears! And it’s not the sappy stuff that you find in something by Picoult or Moyes; it’s more relatable for teens. For example, the bullying! All the horrible stuff the boys say and do to Jackie just makes you want to cry, even though the boys laugh to prove that it was a joke. Every time someone did something mean and unwelcoming to her, I just wanted to scream, “HER ENTIRE FAMILY JUST DIED IN A CAR ACCIDENT, YOU ASSHOLE!” I couldn’t imagine losing my family, moving away from the friends and city I grew up in, moving in with STRANGERS that have twelve children (eleven boys and a girl who is basically a boy), and starting my life over in a new school and city when the twelve children have made it abundantly clear that they don’t want you around. My heart went out to Jackie. I have never felt so much heartache for a YA character in a romance before. Novak did a perfect job at making Jackie seem pathetic (harsh word, but good in thus case) and likable. I was never once annoyed by her personality because she just seemed so natural and real. And whenever she did something that had nad results, I didn’t hate her for it. I understood and refused to throw the blame on her, even when she got in between Alex and Cole. She is definitely stronger than the boys give her credit for.

I have never read a book where all the main characters were so well developed and refined. Each of the main Walter Boys (Cole, Danny, Isaac, Alex, Nathan and Lee) had specific personalities that Novak refused to stray from, ensuring that it was impossible to mix them up. I have also never read a book where I hated so many characters,  but in a GOOD WAY. I mean, your supposed to hate them so your more sympathetic to Jackie. Here’s how I feel about each main Walter boy:

  • Cole- complete ASSHOLE. Other than his hotness factor  (as described by Novak) the boy has nothing going for him. Even when he tried to do something nice for Jackie, the reader can’t help but think he always had an alterior motive (sexual, or course). He was mean to everyone, especially Jackie. But in the end, it makes him a well-developed character. We know why he’s an ass, but that still doesn’t make his actions okay. Even though he ended up falling for Jackie, we can’t push past the way her treated their relationship like a contest against Alex. I’m glad that in the end, Jackie doesn’t necessarily choose either boy. Sure, she loves Cole and there’s the promise that they’ll try again when she gets back from NYC, but it’s great that she has an entire summer without wither boy as her labeled ‘boyfriend’. The reader can only hope that Cole will get his shit together and become better before Jackie returns.
  • Danny- one of the only two boys who is actually decent! Honestly, Jackie should have dated him. He’s Cole’s twin after all,  so the good looks are still a factor. He also has a better personality, be it a bit shy at first. at least Jackie gets to spend the summer with him in NYC! 
  • Isaac- DICKHEAD #1. He’s always a bully, but that’s just his general personality; it doesn’t have anything to do with Jackie in general. He’s just the bad boy who runs his mouth. He is even rude to his aunt Katherine (technically he and Lee are Katherine’s nephews, but she took them in like sons). Even though it’s impossible to like him as a person, I like him as as a character. You can’t make every character redeemable! 
  • Alex- sweet in general, but I can’t go over the way he kept shoving Jackie in Cole’s face like a prize he won. Even though he made a great friend to Jackie, he was a terrible boyfriend. It was painfully obvious that he only wanted revenge on his brother for what happened with his old girlfriend Mary (who is a BITCH BTW. I can’t believe she threw te death of Jackie’s family in the poor girls face! So cruel! I honestly don’t understand why Alex would still be hung up on her. Just a Bee-otch.) I understand that Jackie was sort of using Alex too because he was the safer option and it meant she could hide her feelings for Cole, but she never did anything to make her feelings for Alex seem false. She did like him. Yes, Alex liked her too, but it was all covered by his rivalry with Cole. It’s like the competition with his brother was more important than the actual relationship. 
  • Nathan- like Danny, Nathan was a sweetheart. He was the best friend Jackie could have in that house, always protecting her and trying to fix the fued between Cole and Alex for Jackie’s sake. And when he had the accident and ended up in the hospital?! Oh my goodness, my heart plummeted! I hate it when misfortune falls on the best people! But I guess if it happened to Cole or Isaac or someone like that, I would give fewer shits. Haha I know that sounds cruel, but they’re fictional characters and it’s kind of the point of hurting the good guy in the first place! I swear, everyone needs a Nathan in their life.
  • Lee- DICKHEAD #2 THAT I WILL NEVER FORGIVE. When he told Jackie to leave the hospital, that no one wanted her there, and that she wasn’t part of the family, ARGGGGGGGGHHHHH! I WANTED TO KICK HIM IN THE NUTS! What an asshat! I know that he and his brother Isaac sort of lash put because they felt abandoned by their own parents and having Jackie around jut meant another person in the house to take up their aunt and uncle’s time, but that’s no excuse for such cruelty! It’s not Jackie’s fault she had no family, or even that she was brought to stay with the Walter family. I just never found a redeeming quality in Lee. I pity him, but I don’t forgive him. 

I also really enjoyed Jackie’s road to recovery, especially because she didn’t have her new life sorted out by the end of the book like most YA novels do. Her relationship status is single, and she has decided to spend her entire summer in her old home NYC to figure out how to process and move forward. She never had a chance to face her past, so it’s nice to know that Novak is giving her character some time to do so. The story would have been less believable if Jackie just had some sudden realization that pushed her to live her life, no longer questioning or crying over her family’s passing. It’s a better story to make Jackie’s time with the Walters seem like a distraction or escape from her pain and past. She wasn’t processing it all properly, and it all had to blow up various times before she finally realized that she couldn’t escape, no matter how hard she tried. Going home is the best thing she can do.

I’m really glad that I got the chance to read this story. The characters will stay for me for a long time. I’ll certainly use them as a standard for other authors to live up to, both the good and the bad ones! (And by bad, I only mean personality wise. As a developed entity by the reader, they are excellent characters that drive the story forward). 

Enjoy this one, Book Babies! You won’t be disappointed! 

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