Rod and his cousin take family rivalry to a new level in this rollicking comedy from Jeff Strand.
Rod’s life is pretty awesome. He plays in a punk rock band that’s starting to score gigs and has a great girlfriend. Then he learns that his rich cousin, Blake, will be staying with him for three months—moving into his room, moving in on his girlfriend and band, and basically ruining his life! Prankster Blake has his own ideas on how Rod should live, but his efforts to get Rod girls and bring people to the band’s shows are the opposite of helpful. Between Blake’s ridiculous pranks and Rod’s increasing paranoia, this semester might be the cousins’ most memorable yet. That is, if their hijinks don’t kill them first.
GOODREADS // AMAZON // B&N // GIVEAWAY (April 3-30)
I received a copy of this book from Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.
How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand successfully made me dislike the villain of the story, cousin Blake.
The entire plot is based around a trouble-filled relationship between Rodney, the main character, and his cousin Blake who comes to visit for three months while his rich parents are off on a cruise. Blake notoriously manages to completely ruin Rodney’s life in less than three months. Honestly, I got so captured up in the chaos of it all that I lost track of the timeline. While I flew through the book powered merely by my dislike of Blake, I found some of the events unrealistic in their scale and impact. The ending of the book, and much of the conflict’s resolution, felt too underwhelming in comparison to the rest of the story as well.
I grew attached to the characters quickly, however, and I discovered myself falling on one character’s side versus the other. (The entire book is a giant fight, so how could I not choose a side?) I usually ended up on Rod’s side due to just how crazy Blake became, but then I found myself asking if I was going crazy alongside Rod. This mainly happened because the story is told in second person POV, which I had only seen before in one other book series. I am still unsure if I enjoy this way of storytelling or not.
Overall, I would recommend How You Ruined My Life for a comedic read or for pre-teen or early teen readers.
“How was your gig?” Mom asks, walking into the kitchen.
“Great! Every show gets a little better.”
“I was going to do that for you,” she says, pointing to the sandwich I’m making.
“I know.” Mom works two jobs, both of which suck, so I’m always happy to make my own lunch. Plus I’m very specific about the spread of my peanut butter. It should be as close to the edge of the bread as possible without spilling over, and the thickness should be consistent. Generally, I’m a pretty casual guy, but not when it comes to peanut butter application. We all have our quirks.
“I’ve got news,” she says.
“Dad got out of prison?”
Dad isn’t really in prison. He left us two years ago. We joke about him being in prison as a coping mechanism.
“I’m finally going to get a baby sister?”
“Ha. You wish.”
“You got a raise?”
Mom shakes her head. “I did get a five-dollar tip on an eighteen-dollar meal though. That was nice.”
“Wild panthers have run amok in our neighborhood, gobbling up people left and right?”
“Maybe you should stop guessing.”
“Maybe I should. So is this good news or bad news?” I ask.
I set down the butter knife. “That doesn’t sound like a good ‘well…’”
“I wouldn’t necessarily call it bad news,” Mom says. “It’s definitely not the worst news ever. Nobody died or anything.”
“You know your aunt Mary and uncle Clark?”
“Of course.” I don’t think I’ve seen Uncle Clark since I was six. We live in Florida, and they live in California. He and Dad never got along, so every couple of years, Aunt Mary would visit us by herself. With Dad out of the picture, I assumed we’d see more of our extended family, but it never really happened.
“Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark are going on a cruise.”
“That’s cool.” I consider that for a moment and then get very excited. “Are they taking us with them?”
“It’s one of those around-the-world cruises. Three whole months. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
Did I mention that Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark are rich? You probably picked up on that when Mom said they were going on a three-month-long world cruise.
“Is Blake going with them?” I ask.
“No. He’s not.”
Suddenly, I have an idea where this conversation is headed. It doesn’t make me happy. “Maybe you should spell this out for me,” I say.
“Your cousin Blake is going to live with us for three months. Isn’t that exciting?”
I stare at her for a few hours.
(Possibly, I’m exaggerating.)
“Starting when?” I ask.
“You mean before the school year ends?”
“Yes. He’s going to transfer to your school.”
“That’s messed up!”
Mom shrugs. “They got a good deal on the cruise.”
“Where’s he going to stay? We don’t have a guest bedroom.”
“Well, I thought…you know…”
“He can’t share my room!” If I wasn’t almost an adult, I would have stomped my foot.
“Honey, it’s only for three months.”
“That’s a quarter of a year! I thought we were broke,” I say. “How are we going to pay for all that extra food?”
“We’re not that broke, and obviously, your aunt and uncle will help pay for groceries.”
“Isn’t he a spoiled brat?”
“You haven’t seen him in ten years,” Mom says.
“Well, ten years ago he was a spoiled brat.”
“I’m sure he’s fine now.”
“Doesn’t he have any friends he can stay with in California?”
My mom sighs. “Rodney, he’s family. Family is always welcome in our home.”
I hope I’m not coming off as whiny and selfish. If a hurricane tore the roof off their house and they lost all of their worldly possessions, sure, I’d happily donate half of my room to Cousin Blake while they rebuilt their lives. But asking me to give up my privacy so Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark can go on a luxury cruise seems kind of unreasonable.
However, I’m pretty sure this is a done deal, and my mom has enough stress in her life without me continuing to protest.
“All right,” I say.
“Thank you.” Mom gives me a hug. “I think you’ll enjoy having him here.”
Who knows? Maybe I will. Maybe my cousin is a really cool guy. Maybe he has good taste in music. And maybe he’s witty and entertaining. And maybe he’ll be willing to help with emergency cleanup if we’re having a wild party and Mom calls suddenly to say she’s on her way home early.
We might end up being the best friends that any two cousins could ever be. We’ll giggle and frolic and be inseparable.
But probably not.
I can’t believe I have to share my room.
I return to making my lunch. I’ll try to be optimistic and pretend that these will be the best three months of my life. How bad could it be?
Can you think of a book in second person POV? What was your last comedy read? What did you think of the excerpt? Let me know in the comments!