First off, I'd like to say a big thank you to Entangled Teen for approving my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
'How (Not) To Fall In Love' starts by throwing us straight into the story. Darcy Covington is stood in the school hallway, daydreaming about her lifelong crush, Ryan, when what he's saying to her finally breaks through her love addled mind: her car is being towed. Right this second. Darcy's father, Ty, is the leader of a large motivational speaking company, Tri!Umphant! Harvest, so Darcy is convinced that they must be towing her car because of some big misunderstanding: she lives in a massive house, goes to a private school, and her father has a multi-million dollar company, so how is it possible that the bills on her car can't have been paid?
Darcy freaks out and gets her best friend, Sal, to take her straight home, where she barges in on a meeting between her mother and her fathers business partner. Long story short, her dad has taken off, they have no idea where he's gone, and the company is failing without him. Darcy won't be getting her car back, and all of their bank accounts have been frozen, knocking them out of the comfortable life that they're used to and into a world of turmoil.
I didn't think I would enjoy this story half as much as I did, so I was pleasantly surprised. Being thrown straight into a story normally really annoys me, because I like to get a handle on how the characters are before the events shape them, but that is the beauty of this novel. We get to see Darcy struggling with the loss of the money that she is so obviously accustomed to, but we also get to see her grow and develop into a much stronger character because of that. At the start of the book, Darcy is mousy and quiet, shy to her very core, but by even the middle of the novel she has changed so much, getting the confidence to talk to people and push closer to sorting out their terrible situation. She is a rock for her mother, who absolutely falls apart, but it isn't written in one of those sanctimonious and irritating ways, when the child demeans and degrades the parent at every opportunity; Darcy bides her time and only talks to her mother when she can be maturing and unemotional about the whole situation, which is another big credit to her. I do find that sometimes stories about people developing in tough times can seem unrealistic, but the changes that Darcy goes through are gradual and very well written.
Of course, this is a YA novel, so there has to be a romance! Darcy goes to find her uncle, who she hasn't seen in over ten years, getting picked up by his handyman, Lucas. Lucas is extremely dreamy: an older guy from college, tattooed and extremely muscly. However, as well as the burning hot good looks, he also has a great personality: humorous and sarcastic, both in ways that made me laugh out loud while I was reading it, but with a good heart on top. He did get annoying at points when he complained about Darcy doing things by herself, but I can almost forgive him if I think of that as over-protectiveness rather than as I'm-a-manly-man syndrome. The love between them wasn't instantaneous, which was a definite positive, and I loved the fact that they had an extremely strong friendship before anything more was seriously hinted at between them, so it wasn't too over the top with the gooey cheesiness.
A lot of the time teen romance novels make me want to cry from sheer exasperation, due to the massive cliches and the unrealistic settings and actions of the characters, but this is not one of those. The focus is more upon Darcy sorting out her family and trying to work out where her father is than of trying to get into a relationship with Lucas, and it was good to see a character with a level-head and priorities over a swooning lead from a Regency novel.
The set-up of the book was also really good; throughout, there were blog posts and newspaper articles regarding her fathers disappearance, which was another aspect that added to the realism shown throughout this book. If a really famous motivational speaker really did disappear off of the face of the planet, there would be a lot of people asking a lot of questions, so it was good to see that was considered. The ending of the novel didn't surprise me too much, but overall I really enjoyed the book, and it was a cute novel that had me smiling from beginning to end. I'd recommend this if you've been having a bad week and want to make your life better, or if you just want to read something a bit lighter, with some humour sprinkled throughout.