Chloe Camden is definitely the queen of her school until her best friend tears her reputation apart. Things go from bad to worse when her new school counselor puts the kibosh on her junior independent study project (JISP). Instead of doing the project she was so excited about, Chloe’s forced to take on a project with “more meaning,” meaning she’s got to tackle the school’s failing radio station. Ostracized from her friends, dealing with family stresses, and trying to prove to the other radio geeks that she’s the real deal, Chloe works to find a balance in her life. Hosting a call-in radio show seems to be the ticket to publicity (and maybe some trouble).
There’s something to be said for Shelley Coriell’s debut novel: it takes a risk. The risk lies in the fact that its heroine and narrator, Chloe, isn’t particularly likable. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (and it becomes clear, early on, that this is intentional), it can alienate readers. Readers who give up early on Coriell’s quirky, cute novel are missing out, because once they’re about a third of the way in, things start to open up. The result is a mostly-successful tale about an obliviously selfish girl who gets some hard life lessons.
The problem is that it takes a while to get to the meat of the story. Chloe’s chipper, always-look-on-the-bright-side attitude starts to grate early on. Her inability to see how shallow and self-absorbed she is is done in a fairly subtle way, which might make it hard for some readers to realize what Coriell is doing. However, once Chloe starts working at the radio station and interacting with the group of misfits that run it, the story picks up.
Although it’s not a particularly inventive story, it’s still entertaining. Chloe has a natural, authentic voice. Some of the secondary characters–particularly Clementine, the surly manager of the station, and Chloe’s grandmother–stick out. The light romance with Duncan should keep readers looking for love satisfied, but Coriell is careful to not let it overshadow the plot as a whole.
Unsurprisingly, the book is strongest when Chloe’s working at the station. There are times when the story starts to meander a bit (there are side plots involving meth addiction, semi-homelessness, and dementia), but the ending is fairly tight. Overall a fun, refreshing read featuring a quirky heroine. Recommended.
The book hits shelves today.
Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell. Amulet Books: 2012. Electronic galley received for review via NetGalley.