The Art of Feeling, by Elizabeth Jeannel
Release Date: May 31, 2017
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Clare Ghimmel has dreams of being an artist, but when her mother dies suddenly, her father decides it’s the perfect time to move out of the city and across the country to her mother’s hometown. Things are promising, even as Clare starts a new school the fall of her senior year. That is, until the art program is threatened by budget cuts. Clare sets off on the mission of saving the program that gave her mother a future, while catching the attention of one of her beautiful classmates. What is it about Alexa that makes Clare so nervous? Alexa Woods has two goals in life; to feel nothing and to get out of Astoria. Both goals seem to fade away the moment the new girl walks into her English class. Even as Alexa throws herself into her training and tries to avoid Clare all together, nothing seems as important as getting to know her. Alexa quickly becomes torn between her father’s rules about love, her own dreams, and the inescapable callings of her own heart. Is love worth sacrificing everything she’s ever known?
I didn’t know what to expect from this book at first. I had read many similar titles – the whole first love/coming out/high school thing. I’m happy to say THE ART OF FEELING exceeded my (unknown at the time) expectations.
We’re introduced to main character Clare in the middle of her recurring nightmare that she’s had every night since her mom died. The way the book began was fantastic and sad at the same time. I especially liked the excerpt Jeannel wrote comparing Clare’s bravery (or lack thereof) to the view from her father’s car as they drove to their new home.
“She watched as the sun cast a bright ray on the green trees alongside the road, and she admired the wild flowers that grew where they wanted, refusing to let logic forbid their bloom. Clare wished she could be like that; so, sure of herself she could be brave.”
Soon after Clare and her father get settled in, we’re introduced to her school life – and her eventual love interest. Clare and Alexa are in the same English class, but we hear from them both as they react to the other’s company. The way it’s written is confusing at times – like it would have been easier to understand in first person compared to third person in the book – but it’s a clever way to introduce the characters to each other. While Clare is confused about her feelings, Alexa surely is not.
Both Clare and Alexa were fascinating characters to me. Neither fit the stereotypes we see today of girls who love girls, which was refreshing. Jeannel also spent more time with the characters’ backstories, and even though they’re both sad in their own ways (losing their mothers at a young age brings them together), that was nice too.
Clare and Alexa’s relationships with their fathers broke my heart in different ways. While Clare’s father is as loving as one can be, Alexa’s father is the opposite; the mayor of Astoria, OR, only cares about his MMA-fighter daughter when it benefits him.
On a happier note, I absolutely LOVED Miss Susie, the salon owner Clare quickly confides in after a bad experience at the nearby mall. Clare doesn’t dwell on the fact that Miss Susie is a transgender woman while at the salon, which is incredibly refreshing.
Without giving anything away – because you should read this book – I will say the title THE ART OF FEELING absolutely fits. It may sound silly, but it’s true. Pretty much every character – but especially Clare and Alexa – learn that not only are their feelings valid, but it’s okay to run with those feelings.
Elizabeth Jeannel is the author of The Travelers and its sequel, Crowned.
With two English majors for parents, she was thrust into the word world at a young age. She first began writing at the age of ten, finishing her first short story before the age of eleven. She is currently working on the third novel in The Travelers series, and her next book The Art of Feeling goes on sale the 31st of May. For more information on her upcoming events or books, visit her events or book page.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.