The Promise of Amazing
Harper Collins / December 31, 2013 / $17.99 print, $9.78 digital
Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.
Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.
One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.
The Promise of Amazing is Robin Constantine's Young Adult debut. Heroine Wren Caswell is recovering from her first real relationship while trying to decide what she wants to do with herself after high school: go to college, or stay home and continue to work at her parents' catering hall, the Camelot? Hero Grayson Barrett, meanwhile, knows he needs to change. He's recently been expelled from his expensive private school for selling term papers, and is trying to free himself from some even more dangerous activities and the friends who encouraged them, while at the same time dealing with the ambiguous relationship he has with his mother and her new husband. Wren and Grayson meet in a fateful encounter in which Wren literally saves Grayson's life. The story is told through their alternating first-person points of view, which gives a deep picture of their flaws and confusions.
I particularly enjoyed the contrast between their dramatic emotions and their more down-to-earth teenage issues. As in a fairy tale, the two are strongly drawn to each other after their potent first encounter, but their qualms and problems are straight out of everyday life. Grayson, for example, has always been a player, and is not sure how to act with a girl whom he truly feels interest for. He defaults to a predatory, wolfish pursuit even while striving to be the handsome prince. He must reconcile these different parts of his personality before he can truly be with Wren.
I wanted to sweep the hair away from her face, feel her body against me, without an audience or the threat of my imminent death. Connecting with her had felt different. Real. I had to get to know her. At least I had her name. Wren Caswell. The rest would be easy. It was what I was good at.
Though younger and less experienced, Wren is the more grounded of the two, and it's one of the reasons Grayson is attracted to her. But she is wary of male attention after a failed relationship in which she was more serious than her partner, and she's also wary of her physical desire for Grayson, which arises swiftly and strongly.
“This is weird, isn’t it?” I said, stepping away.
“What?” he asked.
“I feel like I know you, but I don’t,” I began. “It’s like we had this intense moment, but...it’s over, isn’t it?”
“It doesn’t have to be,” he said, “does it?”
I rubbed my hands together, folded my arms across my chest. “I think I’d better get going.”
...Since the night I saved him, I’d felt a magnetic pull toward Grayson so strong, it scared me. I thought it was some sort of mystical thing, that once you saved someone’s life, you always had some connection. But then he’d looked at me, those bangs grazing his eyebrows, the top button of his tee casually undone, and it wasn’t only his well-being I thought about.
As the story continues, Wren's home life becomes more complicated thanks to one of her siblings, and the possible sale of the Camelot. Meanwhile, Grayson's former friends continue to try and lure him back into their orbit. Wren is also pulled into that conflict, much to Grayson's dismay, and he must decide which is more important to him: fully living a new life, or concealing the old one for fear that Wren will lose interest.
There was a genuineness about Wren that made me feel like I didn’t have to put up a front. Like she really saw me.
...What would Wren think if she saw me now? This unhinged? Would she back away like she did at the park? How strange but sexy it felt arguing with her. It was the first honest interaction I’d had with a girl in...well, years. And it felt good. Just listening to her. The rise and fall of her voice as she spoke my name after I asked her if she regretted saving me...The way we met, at this point in my life, had to mean something.
Meanwhile, Wren must decide if Grayson, with all his problems, is the boy she really wants. Her friend and familial relationships add complexity to her character and show that this romance won't be the most important thing in her life, even if she feels as if it is at the moment. Both she and Grayson are not isolated beings, and their story together becomes much more than a fantastical initial meeting.
Learn more or order a copy of The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine, available on December 31, 2013: