It’s Complicated by Laura L. Smith is the first book in the Status Updates series, suitable for ages sixteen and up.
The series follows the stories of Claire, Hannah, Palmer, and Kat, college roommates, as they go through their freshman year. I would place this book on both the Young Adult and New Adult shelves because the protagonists are all eighteen years old at the beginning and grow older as the series progresses.
- Ms. Smith deftly portrays four very different girls as they tell their stories–both individual and collective–in their own words. The author tackles some difficult topics in a realistic manner, but she manages to keep the story hopeful and inspiring.
- It’s Complicated introduces the main characters during the end of their summer and first weeks of school. The four friends learn to pull together as they navigate through life-changing circumstances.
- Young Adult readers will relate to the dilemmas and decisions the main characters face. Drama and trauma are interwoven with funny and embarrassing moments Readers will definitely want to tune back in for the remaining four books in the Status Updates series to find out what happens to Claire, Hannah, Palmer, and Kat.
- Due to a couple of adult situations, this material is inappropriate for younger students. However, the Lexile is approximately 610L based on a sample, so struggling readers will not have a problem enjoying the text.
- All of the girls claim to be Christian. Kat’s family has moved several times, so they’ve “switched churches a lot.” Claire keeps her Bible and a journal beneath her pillow. She says she attends church back home.
- Palmer admits to being a Christian and always wears a silver cross necklace. It bothers her that her boyfriend’s family doesn’t pray before meals. Claire is convinced that she’s too dirty for God to love after the assault; I found this crisis of faith to be realistic.
- Claire’s date lures her to his room and rapes her. The attack, told from Claire’s point of view, is short and not graphic, although she leaves no doubt about what has happened to her.
- Palmer’s long-term high school boyfriend pressures her to have sex with him to prove that she loves him. She resists, but not before it’s almost too late. Their physical relationship has spiraled out of control, and he cannot keep his hands off her. She, in turn, lets passion cloud her judgement.
- Kat makes out with a guy she knows isn’t the sort of boy she can take home to meet the parents.
- Claire’s mom discovers that her serious boyfriend is already married. Claire is pressured to drink wine on at least two occasions while in France, even though she’s underage in the United States. She drinks too much the last time, and this makes her vulnerable to the assault mentioned above. Claire cannot seem to catch a break.
- Kat’s new friend and fellow soccer player uses “K2,” a synthetic form of marijuana, to relax and deal with stress. He compares it to drinking wine. She refuses his offer to share.
- A random stranger offers to buy Palmer a beer.
- Claire’s father walked out on her mother when Claire was seven. Claire’s mother goes from one relationship to another. This distorts Claire’s perspective on men.
- Kat decides to get a stud in her nose without her parents’ consent. She knows her mother won’t approve.
- Palmer’s mother seems overly concerned about appearances, nagging Palmer about staying trim.
My Personal Opinions:
Mature adult readers who–like me–frequently read YA fiction may find the style too telling. These accounts read like a girl’s diary. That’s fine, up to a point, but the constant emotional input from the four girls, revealing their feelings through “I feel” and “I felt” statements exhausted me.
That said, Laura L. Smith hits the sweet spot for her intended audience of young women on the threshold of life. This is an inspirational novel that fits neatly under the heading of Christian contemporary YA fiction.
In this book, there is no overt “altar call” as is found in some inspirational fiction. This is the way Christian fiction should be written, keeping things real and addressing the difficult questions we face.
For Young Adult/New Adult readers, It’s Complicated will too soon, and they will want to pick up each new installment as soon as it’s available.