When Cassidy Diamond is admitted to a prestigious summer program at Stanford University, she looks forward to being surrounded by people just like herself: smart, studious, and antisocial.
But when Cassidy is assigned to stay with the Harper family and meets their vivacious and uninhibited daughter Grace, the two girls clash at first sight.
Cassidy is determined to not let Grace distract her from her studies, while Grace wants to show Cassidy that maybe her grades aren’t all she has going for her, and that life might be about more than building the perfect resume.
I was excited to read something different in the young adult genre, and Never Trust a Happy Song delivers that. Fifteen-year-old Cassidy is singularly focused on her studies, and her mother is a strong driving force behind this. In the opening scene, we get to see just how much that’s the case. So when Cassidy gets to spend the summer at Stanford, staying with a host family, I’m already hoping this family will help lighten her up a little. Their teen daughter, Grace, seems to be the polar opposite of Cassidy, wild and free, spontaneous and happy. But underlying her free-spirited nature are hints that something isn’t quite right.
The book gets off to a slow start. Almost too slow, because I found myself putting it down for long stretches before picking it up again, but the second half flows better, so I’m glad I stuck with it. The story deals with some heavy issues, including bullying, mental illness, but it’s also the story of friendship.
This is almost exclusively a character-driven story, but plot plays a role. Cassidy and Grace do not get along. Cassidy is serious, goal-oriented, and Grace is neither of those and tries to get Cassidy to lighten up. This aspect of the story is relatively predictable. You know they’ll end up as fast friends by the end, but how they get there is where the story really takes place.
There’s a fair amount of character development as the story unfolds, particularly for protagonist, Cassidy. But she didn’t start out fully fleshed out. I never understood her motivations, and we never learn why she has such an academic drive. But she goes from being somewhat judgemental, narrow-minded, and selfish to a more well-rounded character by the end, questioning her priorities. I didn’t care much for her in the beginning and maybe that contributed to my stop-and-start approach to reading the book.
Grace, on the other hand, grabbed me from the start. She was instantly likeable and I wanted to slap Cassidy upside the head a few times for her attitude toward Grace in the beginning. I would have liked to understand Cassidy’s mom more, too. She came across as somewhat two-dimensional and the “Mean Girls” are stereotypical, but I don’t think that harmed the story, I just think it could have been more interesting if there was more to them as well.
I like how the story ended, although it feels a little unfinished, but then, teens are a work in progress, so that might actually be intentional by the author.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed about Never Trust a Happy Song:
1. Friendship. The friendship that ultimately develops between Cassidy and Grace is worth waiting for.
2. Grace. She’s a fun and funky free-spirit, and by far my favorite character in the story.
3. Personal Growth. The way Cassidy develops through the story felt organic and authentic.
4. The Harpers. The family Cassidy stays with are genuine, something Cassidy doesn’t truly understand or appreciate at first.
5. Finding Balance. I think the lessons Cassidy learns are essential to surviving in life. Not everything needs to be about school and getting perfect grades.
Never Trust a Happy Song is a realistic contemporary teen story about learning to let go in order to find yourself.
I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Natalie Bina is a writer and lover of words who finds daily life incredibly fascinating.
She is intrigued by the joys and trials of adolescent life and plans to continue expressing them in stories.
When not writing, she enjoys singing, dancing, acting, and baking a wide variety of sweet treats.
She is currently attending Wesleyan University.