Ready, Okay! examines the lives of a handful of teenagers in suburban California. Allen Mockery (our narrator) is a jokester, amateur psychologist, and friend to those in need. Surrounding him are a host of other characters, including Peggy (his best friend), Molly (his little sister, who has some pretty strange ideas regarding clothing), Echo (his steely eyed twin), Krieg (his foul mouthed brother), and plenty more. You will meet quite a few people in this book, and all of them will surprise you. You will learn about their childhood, their family life, and their secrets. Before you know it, you will be so wrapped up in Allen's world that his friends will feel as real to you as your own. With wit, sarcasm, and probably some bias, Allen lets us in on everything, from gossip around school to his difficult family history. Even though only a few days had passed since I started the book, when I put it down I felt like I had grown up with the people between its pages.
Allen's voice is sharp and funny and I constantly found myself laughing out loud at the things he said. True, more than a handful of the jokes were cringe worthy, but that doesn't mean that his witty comments weren't still highly entertaining. As his sister Molly told him in one of my favorite scenes in the whole book: "Your sense of humor is pathological. It's a defense mechanism. Echo's defense is to be insular and anti-social; yours is to crack a joke every twelve seconds." The other thing I loved about Allen is that his first instinct is to help people. It's this instinct that makes him so endearing to the reader, but also brings him (and us) a lot closer to the people around him.
Even though it has a sense of humor, Ready, Okay! doesn't shy away from serious topics. Far from it. Instead, it plunges headlong into the pool of issues that teenagers face on a daily basis, from friendships and school gossip to sex, drugs, and parental abandonment. As the book progresses, and the lives of the characters deteriorate, you begin to see how everyone is connected- how the people you know, even if they are just acquaintances, can have such a huge impact on your life, and how those you thought you knew by heart can still surprise you.
I recently learned that Adam Cadre is working on a re-write of Ready, Okay! I think he is right to re-work some things, and I definitely want to read the revised version as soon as it's available. In the beginning I was majorly confused by the number of characters (so many siblings with similar names!). Allen makes some pretty long speeches when he happens to call someone out on something (which happens a lot), and, though this may also be due to the book's small type and unconventional chapter breaks, I felt like no matter how much I read I didn't make much progress. These things bugged me while I was in the middle of the book, but as the story careened towards its end all of that fell away.
This book was a roller coaster ride of hilarity and poignancy, laughter and tears. It's honest and and funny and a little weird at times. Long after closing the book the characters stayed in my head, and I was still thinking about them when I woke up this morning. And if you do decide to read it, don't give up, even if it takes you a year. Trust me. It's so worth it.