Positively heartbroken, Belle gives herself a week to wallow in self-pity. In that week, she learns more about herself and her loved ones than she ever thought possible. She oscillates between shock and acceptance, hurt and understanding, as she tries to figure out what their relationship really meant.
When Dylan starts dating another boy, he is ridiculed by some classmates and accepted by others. Though she's still hurting, Belle supports him. She herself is shaken up multiple times: when there's a physical assault on campus, and again and again when her seizures strike.
Belle is a great leading character. She's the quiet type but true to herself and to her loved ones. She's initially confused by Dylan's confession and it makes her re-evaluate their history together, but she's never whiny nor close-minded about the situation. She finds solace in her music and strength in herself. Once Belle realizes Dylan is still the same sweet guy he's always been, just not the love of her life, she's able to start healing her broken heart - part of which will always belong to him.
All of the book's characters are subtly quirky and believable. Best friends Emily and Belle are extremely comfortable around each other, making for candid, realistic dialogue. Belle's mom happily sings around the house, always mangling song lyrics. Then there's Tom, a nice boy fond of making random objects out of duct tape who also makes his way into Belle's life.
From start to finish, Tips for Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend is a delightful read - and Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape) picks up right where Tips left off.
As they approach the end of their senior year, Belle and her best friend Emily talk about their future lives more than ever. When Em needs her more than ever, Belle is right there for her, but Em's secret noticeably weighs them both down.
Belle struggles with a lot in this book. It's weird for her to see her mother dating. It's difficult for her to share her music with others. At times, she feels undeserving of Tom's attention; other times, she wishes she knew if their relationship means as much to him as it does to her. When her seizures return, she doesn't want to tell anyone else about her condition, but she accidentally confides in someone who may not be trustworthy.
This book has plenty of love to go around: Belle, her best friend, her ex-boyfriend, and her mother all have boyfriends. Thankfully, this is not a story about people revolving their lives around their relationships and defining themselves in terms of their significant others. Instead, the story mixes the happy with the sad, the good with the bad, as Belle and her buddies try to balance schoolwork and homework with everything else that's going on.
Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape) is on my list of Best Books of 2008 (So Far). It is just as good if not better than its predecessor. Carrie Jones allows her characters to mess up and learn from their mistakes rather than condemning them. There's beauty in flaws, and considerant, observant Belle is just the person to see that beauty - in others, in her world, in herself.
Belle's music and lyrics are almost everpresent in this book. My favorite piece is Em's Song, Take Two.
Also noteworthy: a quick exchange between two characters about another remarkable novel, Looking for Alaska by John Green.
Tips for Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend was released in May 2007. Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape) was released in March 2008. Carrie's next book, Girl, Hero, will be released in July 2008. Girl, Hero is a stand-alone novel and is not related to Belle's stories.
Visit Carrie's website and LiveJournal. (Special thanks to Carrie for this sweet post. I think we have a mutual admiration society going on.)
Read my interview with Carrie.