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Friday, July 30, 2010

The Oracle of Dating by Allison van Diepen

The Oracle of Dating by Allison van Diepen
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Contemporary
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (256 pgs)
Rating: 4 Suns
Reviewer: Dandelion

For five bucks, the Oracle of Dating will tell you:

* How to flirt

* If that cute guy you're crushing on likes you, too

* Whether your new romance will last through lunch period

* And much more

What she won't tell you? Who she is.

No one at Kayla's school knows she's the famous Oracle of Dating—the anonymous queen of dating advice. She doesn't even have a boyfriend. Two relationship disasters were enough to make Kayla focus on everyone else's love life.

But then her advice backfires on her own best friend. And Kayla starts to seriously obsess about Jared Stewart—the very cute, very mysterious new guy in school. Suddenly, the teen queen of advice needs her own oracle of dating—and she knows just where to find one…

There’s much to like about this book: Kayla, the narrator, is smart, strong, savvy, and has a terrific, authentic teenage voice. The main characters and secondary characters alike are well developed, and broody, artistic Jared makes the perfect love interest for Kayla. I enjoyed the overall tone and pace of this book, too. It’s fast, fun, and an easy read. Kayla gets caught up in her double life as an online dating guru until she realizes that her love-life advice might be hurting her friends, who don’t know about her secret identity. Then she’s forced to go it alone, facing her own dating troubles when Jared – who seems to like her but ends up dating shallow “It” girl Brooke – becomes a major crush in Kayla’s life. Taking her own advice but also learning to risk her emotions makes for a satisfying happy ending.

The story does suffer from a couple of glitches, though. Kayla gives relationship advice to anyone and everyone who finds her online, though she’s a sixteen year old who’s had just two minor relationships in her past. Yes, she does research and is pretty intuitive, but the sixteen year olds I know aren’t mature enough to understand all the nuances of dating the way Kayla seems to. She also gives advice to Tracey, her older sister, who lives and works in Manhattan. Again, the role reversal of a teenager telling her twenty-something sister who to date and why didn’t always ring true – and there were a lot of scenes with Tracey which sometimes took away from the main story action. Finally, though I absolutely love Jared’s character, he’s quite well-adjusted, eloquent and self-aware for a guy who’s bounced around foster homes and spent time in juvenile detention. This contrast in characterization fell a little short for my taste.

Overall, however, I really enjoyed The Oracle of Dating. I would definitely read another book by Allison van Diepen!

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