Title: Flat-Out Love
Author: Jessica Parker
Number of Pages: 351 (paperback)
Advertised Age Level: New Adult/Ages 15-17
Age and Grade of Main Character(s): 18/22 – college students
Language: mild profanity
Sex: kissing, discussion of virginity
Drug/Alcohol Use: drinking at college party, main character gets drunk
Social Issues: dysfunctional family, death of sibling, childhood trauma, parental negligence
Suggested Movie Grade: PG-13
Premise: When Julie Seagle’s living arrangements for her first year at her Boston college prove to be craigslist scam, she moves in with the Watkins family. Mother Erin Watkins was Julie’s mother’s college roommate, and Julie couldn’t ask for a better place to live. The Watkins live in a beautiful house in a picturesque neighborhood near Harvard. But Julie soon comes to find that the Watkins’ perfect exterior masks problems that she can’t begin to figure out.
Mother Erin and father Roger are academics who are so wrapped up in their work, they are almost never around. The family lives on take-out food. Oldest brother Finn has gone off to travel the world, leaving middle brother Matt – a math major at MIT – to look after their sister, 13 year old Celeste. And Celeste may just be the oddest family member of all. She insists on carrying around and interacting with a life-sized cardboard photo of Finn – which everyone refers to as Flat Finn. Celeste has no friends, she talks in a very bizarre manner, and she’s prone to inexplicable breakdowns.
But whenever Julie tries to ask questions about Flat Finn or what is going on with this family, no one will give her any answers. She strikes up a on-line correspondence with the real Finn, and their relationship turns into something deeper than friendship. But even Finn won’t help Julie figure out the mystery that is the Watkins family.
Potential Points of Concern:
This section contains SPOILERS that some may wish to avoid.
Erin and Roger Watkins are very neglectful of Celeste, leaving her primary care to Matt who is only a junior in college.
Julie’s father makes plans to take a trip with her and cancels at the last minute. All of his correspondence with her is through his secretary, and Julie eventually realizes that he is a horrible parent.
Matt and Julie discuss the fact that Julie is a virgin and Matt is not. Julie expects to have sex with her boyfriend, Sean, but the plans never happen.
Julie gets drunk on champagne on New Year’s eve when her father stands her up for their dinner date. She takes a cab home.
After an argument, Matt and Julie share a bed and begin kissing, but they stop before anything else can happen.
Eldest brother Finn was killed in a car accident while Erin Watkins was driving the car, resulting in the family’s current dysfunctional situation. Celeste was traumatized by the event and is struggling to cope.
NOTE: A companion book – Flat-Out Matt – tells parts of this story from Matt’s point of view. It contains an epilogue chapter that does contain fairly explicit sex between Matt and Julie and would not be appropriate for younger readers.
Age Appropriateness: 14 +