Tess tells you how she feels about her new romance. And when you flip the book over you find out in Charlie’s own words what a boy thinks about it all.
I have said it before: I can’t resist a YA romance series with a gimmick. Two By Two Romances features two (two! two!) books in one. The first is narrated by the heroine, then you flip over the book and read the dude’s point of view of the events. This one comes to us from author Carol Ellis, who also wrote for the similarly gimmicky Heart To Heart series.
The Plot: Unfortunately for the reader, each version is equally boring.
The cover strongly hints that you’re supposed to read the Girl Side first, so that’s where I started, and I imagine most readers did as well, because, ugh, look at Charlie’s big dumb head.
Tess Reilly has been prodigious distance runner since the 6th grade. Now a sophomore in high school, she is part of the community track team in Eaton, Oklahoma, competing alongside college students. Tess’s life revolves around training, leaving little time for friends, a social life or dating. While her father encourages her pursuit of a spot on the US Olympic team, her mother wishes that she’d take time for a more normal teenage life.
Early one morning she meets Charlie Montgomery, a hunky senior, at the track during her morning warm-ups. Intrigued, she asks around and finds out that Charlie has a reputation for being the class clown and is also a member of the boys’ gymnastics team, which is beginning their inaugural season.
Tess and Charlie start dating, but it is hard because of their rigorous training schedules, out-of-town meets, and just plain exhaustion from sports. Conflict arises when Tess realizes that she takes running much more seriously than Charlie takes gymnastics, and he is inadvertently a bad influence, urging her to skip practices in order to spend time with him:
“Why don’t you be daring and cut out early just this once?”
“I’d love to,” I whispered back. “But you know I can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
After a spat about whether Tess loves running or just winning, they semi-break up, then get back together after Charlie starts taking gymnastics seriously, leading the team to a victory against their school’s toughest rival team.
Now all turned around on the subject, Charlie and Tess reunite, just in time for Charlie to graduate and accept a spot at a prestigious training camp in Colorado. Tess doesn’t know what will become of their relationship, but she supports him all the way because SPORTS.
The writing on the “Tess” side is especially weird and disjointed, and sometimes a scene transition involving weeks happens in the middle of a sentence. The “Charlie” side has smoother narrative, although it reads more like a summary than a story. It doesn’t do much to hold the reader’s interest because (duh) you already know what is going to happen.
The most interesting part of the “Charlie” side is that you get a little insight into his attitude, including his super laid-back parents, who (in contrast to Tess’s) can barely be bothered to notice that Charlie is even on a gymnastics team.
I hate to feel like I’m picking on an author but, like her entry in the Heart To Heart series, Ellis doesn’t really tell a compelling story, even within the modest expectations one has for a YA paperback romance. The best thing this one has going for it is the setting, a nice change of pace from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or generic Anytown USA (I sort of feel like Oklahoma doesn’t get much attention outside of S.E. Hinton); it also has good descriptions of the physical exhaustion both Tess and Charlie feel while trying to balance their athletic careers, school and social lives.
Sign It Was Written In 1984 Department:
I might have even made the ’84 Olympic team, but I was too young. I was really disappointed, but my coach told me I’d be old enough in ’88, and if I just kept at it I’d make it.
He had on a sweatshirt cut off at the elbows and a pair of track shorts over his sweatpants, so I forgot the way I looked.