The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes: A Win Read For Any Contemporary Fan–Or Even If You Aren’t One

the art of lainey cover by paula stokes

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?

Description taken from Goodreads.

"Maybe if I'd paid more attention to my mom and her tea leaves, I would have seen it coming. Instead, all I see is Jason, my boyfriend of two and a half years."

Oh, THE ART OF LAINEY. I just stood outside in front of my mailbox hugging this book for a long time after I got it. The cover is incredibly familiar to me but just to be able to really see it and hold it was awesome. But getting to the actual words part of it, there is no other way to describe this book that an amazingly pleasantly surprising read.

Right from the start, you can list of Lainey’s traits. She’s dramatic and acts like a total girl even though there is a lot of toughness underneath her makeup and pretty dresses. One thing I didn’t like about her at times was her sensitivity or lack of sensitivity about certain things. However, one thing that I loved about Stokes’s characters is how real they are. They’re blunt and kind and annoying and make me smile. They’re just people, in the best way possible. Oh yes, and they’re hilarious.

"Are you some kind of weird who gets off on girls crying?" I wipe my eyes on the collar of my shirt. THe teal fabric comes away with eye makeup. Micah laughs softly to himself as he slides the binder back onto the shelf.
"I hope you don't really think of me that way." Something in his expression stings like lemon juice poured directly on my heart. Pity. I hate pity.

In a way, Lainey almost reminds me of Cricket in Summer on the Short Bus by Bethany Crandell, which I also loved. Bethany is nothing short of the best and I was talking to her recently about what makes blunt characters appealing. I was wondering because I noticed how one MC I read about I hated, while I loved Cricket–even though they could both be profiled as extremely rude, crass and downright mean at times, especially in the beginning of SHORT BUS. Bethany said something about no matter who your characters are, you have to know them as a writer and portray them–the good and the bad. I think Stokes does an amazing job of this.

I smile a goodbye to Micah's mom over my shoulder as he practically drags me out of the apartment. I stare at his mohawk as we head down the steps and out of his building. Individual tufts of his hair lean to the left in the warm breeze. I can't help wondering what his hair feels like. Is it soft? Is it prickly? I could touch it if I wanted to. I mean, he was going to touch my hair before I pulled away. I think about it for a moment, but then decide against it. I wouldn't want to give him the wrong idea.

The characters really drove this story, which impressed me, but that isn’t all there is to the plot. Stokes drives a great story that was unpredictable and well paced. The romance is also extremely well done, each step of the plot thought out and not rushed at all.

no instalove thank god

It’s really the little things that really impressed me with this book, and a combination of the big things, but there were so many things I was impressed by. One of those things was the themes. I loved the nature snippets, the soccer and baseball bits, the friendship dynamics between Leo and Lainey and Bianca and Lainey, the Art of War excerpts, all of that was great. It really enforced what Stokes said and made her word believable in the story. There were also some great quotes that I loved. I’ve learned everything I know about soccer from my best girl-friend and soccer animes, so it was nice to see that knowledge come in handy. Even before Micah and Lainey started to see each other in a different way, their friendship was both heartwarming as they turned to each other and their banter was a lot of fun. I would love to be friends with Lainey, Micah and Bee. Plus, I would love to go Mizz Creant’s House of Torture (and Pancakes) sometime.

Overall, I loved this story. There’s a lot of room if Stokes ever wanted to expand on this story, but for right now I’m pretty happy with the ending. My only regret is that I didn’t get to see more of Bianca and a few other characters. I’m definitely looking forward to Stokes’s next book, Liars, Inc., now that I’ve gotten a taste of what her writing can be like. And I’m even more psyched to be a part of #TeamLainey. LAINEY is a win read if I ever saw one, and a book that could make me change my mind about contemporary romance. There were so many things I loved here, and I would recommend it for any contemporary fan–or even for those of you who don’t usually love it. 4.5 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 384

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