4 star, YA

Review: 10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston

Series: Messina Family #2

It’s Senior Week, that magical in-between time after classes have ended but before graduation, chock-full of gimmicky theme parties, last-minute bonding, and family traditions. Olivia couldn’t be more ready. Class salutatorian and confident in her future at LSU, she’s poised to sail through to the next phase of her life.

But when the tiny hiccup of an unsigned off-campus P.E. form puts Olivia in danger of not graduating at all, she has one week to set things straight without tipping off her very big and very nosy extended family. Volunteering to help at a local golf tournament should do it, but since Olivia’s mom equipped her phone with a tracking app, there’ll be no hiding the fact that she’s at the golf course instead of all the graduation parties happening at the same time. Unless, that is, she can convince the Fab Four–her ride-or-die cousins and best friends Sophie, Charlie, and Wes–to trade phones with her as they go through the motions of playing Olivia for the week.

Sure, certain members of the golf team are none too pleased with Olivia’s sudden “passion” for the game. And sure, a very cute, very off-limits boy keeps popping up in Olivia’s orbit. But she is focused! She has a schedule and a plan! Nothing can possibly go wrong . . . right?



After the surprising success with book one, 10 Blind Dates, I knew the Messina family could both be messy but also fun. I wish my family was more like them sometimes, with relatives living close by one another and being close enough to just drop in at the matriarch’s house whenever they wanted for some breakfast or family gossip. Clearly my Asian family didn’t meet the traditional large family sizes that I know others have, but if it did, I sure would love that it would feel the same way in love and mess as the Messinas.

Going into 10 Truths and a Dare, I wasn’t sure if this book could live up to the hype that was its predecessor. While I liked Olivia enough as a secondary character and cousin in the first book, was she enough to pull off her own story? That thought carried itself around when I first picked this book up. Fortunately, I read this as an audiobook and oh boy, this made all the difference I think. Let’s break my thoughts down, shall we?

Storyline

Did this plot really make the most sense? I mean, what kinda cruel principal and PE teacher would hold back a senior graduate, someone who we all know puts in the effort everywhere else, from graduating based on a half credit of physical education? I’m literally the same as Olivia. I cared about my academic standing wayyyy over whatever I did for anything physical. So sue me. But to not sign a form that is LITERALLY standing in the way of her graduating? That’s just heartless. And the only way to make up for it is to volunteer for a whole week without missing a single hour? Feels a little over the top to me.

Also, what kind of self-respecting teen would allow their mother – one whom clearly has some boundary issues – to track their every movement on their phone? I mean, sure, it’s nice to know where your kid is but do you not trust them at all times and need to constantly be checking what they’re doing? It’s bound to send some message to them that you need to go hide things from them by leaving your phone elsewhere if you just want some privacy.

Okay, clearly this tells you what kind of teenager I was. Or would’ve been if my parents and school did this to me.

So while the major plot points were a little wonky to me, that didn’t mean it wasn’t fun. I rolled with it and so did Olivia’s best friends/cousins. Hilarity is definitely going to ensue when you leave your phone in the hands of your male besties. Wes, but particularly Charlie, clearly had no idea what was coming to them when a mother asks what kind of bra you should wear underneath a specific dress for that party you’re going to. Talk about some laughing moments!

Romance

Did I fall head over heels for Leo, the bad boy who is friends with the enemy, the Evil Jo’s? No, not really, and not because he was friends with the cousins no one wants to deal with in any family.

I like my off-limits/forbidden romance as much as the next person but I’m not sure there was anything driving the romance for me. He was nicer than they anticipated for the fact that he socialized with the cousins who shall not me named. Keeping it a secret from Charlie, Wes and Sophie for a while was loads of fun and made the chemistry seem to spark more, but I definitely didn’t feel anything particular about it.

Where the chemistry really lies

And that brings me back to why I still really enjoyed this book. I can understand why some may not have loved it as much because it definitely lacked the romantic chemistry that propelled the first book. But listening to this banter cemented even more in my mind how much books about family, the ones with a little less dysfunction in it, is a refreshing perspective. That’s not to say I ignore the reality and need for books to dive into serious family issues because those are definitely present and real for many people. But there’s just something nice to be able to be a part of this big old family who love one another even with – or perhaps because of – their individual quirks.

Olivia spent this whole time trying to hide what was happening this week from her family, which was meant to be full of fun and partying to reminisce 4 years of high school. She was afraid to let them down. Yet it’s in those moments when she realizes maybe she never had to hide it from them in the first place that really got my heart melting. And that’s the kind of feel-good story I need sometimes. I hope 10 Truths and a Dare may also give you that if you ever need it.

Overall Recommendation:

10 Truths and a Dare highlights family at the centre of it all. While there was plenty of fun and weirdness going on as Olivia hid her mandatory volunteering to graduate from her massive family, this story focused on love in other ways than just romantic. From her cousins who handled her mom and the parties Olivia was invited to (in the most hilarious ways) to the serious manner her grandmother and uncles always asked about her well-being, there’s something special about a large family who holds one another in support. If that’s what you’re looking for, with a side of romance and craziness, this is the book for you. There’s no other family that makes my heart grow 1.5x its size than the Messinas it seems.

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