Author: Shelley Coriell
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
ARC from publisher via Netgalley
When I chose Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe, I thought it would a fun piece of fluff about a girl who worked at her high school radio station. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the novel is so much more than that.
Chloe is a gregarious, popular girl at her school and her humorous voice comes through the narration in pitch-perfect style. But Chloe isn’t having a good time right now. Her two BFFs have turned their backs on her for a perceived slight and they’ve gone so far as to spread a terrible rumor about her. Her junior year project has been rejected and she’s forced to help the struggling radio station with promotions. And Chloe’s family life is a war zone as her independent grandmother refuses any help, even though her Parkinson’s disease is getting worse.
This is why I love Chloe as a character. She takes all this drama and as she says, turns rotten tomatoes into salsa. She has moments where she feels alone and sad and scared, but not for long. She’s optimistic enough to throw all her energy into saving the radio station, where she meets cute boy Duncan.
And that’s another thing I love about this novel. Duncan is definitely cute boy material, but Chloe doesn’t instantly fall for him just because he is a cute boy. She gets to know him. He gets to know her. They build a believable relationship together.
And what I really love about the novel is that there are ISSUES in the novel, but they come organically from the characters and are handled deftly. When Duncan reveals that his mother has a meth addiction, we’ve seen Chloe change from a girl who cracks jokes to a girl who can listen when she needs to. There are other issues, too, like growing apart from friends and learning to accept the decline of a beloved grandparent. But the novel earns these moments as Chloe matures without ever betraying who she is as a person.
There’s a great cast of well-developed supporting characters in the novel, who are at turns funny and tragic. The one thing that bumped me was that a school-related arson is wrapped up too quickly and deus ex machina-like. One false step in a book that is otherwise bursting from the seams with believability.
I would recommend this book to readers who enjoyed The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler or Stoner & Spaz by Ronald Koertge.