Penny Beck is a girl who says yes when she means no. She keeps to herself, follows the rules, and does what she’s told. After a disastrous experience with her boyfriend, she’s determined to change from the spineless person she’s always been into the strong woman she wants to become. All she needs is a little practice.
On a cross-country trip to check on her grandpa, she strives to become bolder and more outspoken with the strangers she meets. Penny’s plan is to practice saying and doing what she wants without worrying about what anyone else thinks.
Then she meets Archer, an introspective loner to whom she finds herself drawn. She realizes she does care what he thinks, very much. Will Penny be able to stick to her plan, or will she revert back to her people-pleasing ways?
I received an electronic copy of Outspoken from the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I love reading YA contemporary books and just the synopsis of this book told me that Outspoken would be right up my alley. I love a good coming-of-age book where there’s a lot of great character growth.
Penny has always done what other people tell her to do. She lets others make big decisions for her and she’s never spoken her own mind. She applies for college because her boyfriend told her to. She decides to major in chemistry because her father told her to. And she bought a black car because that’s the colour her younger sister wanted. But an incident with her boyfriend makes her realise that it’s time for her to voice her own opinions and say the things she wants to say. When given the opportunity to move across the country to check on her grandfather who has Alzheimer’s, she decides that a fresh start is just what she needs.
There’s not a lot that’s wrong with this book. It’s probably one of the best self-published books I’ve read, and it’s also a debut novel as well! So I guess I’ll start this review off with the one criticism that I have. I don’t feel as though there was enough character development in this book for me. Judging from the synopsis, the book is ostensibly about Penny’s growth and her transformation from being kind of spineless to being an assertive young woman, but I missed seeing an improvement in her character. The book starts off with Penny driving into her new town and becoming a new person and speaking her mind. Because we never got to really see who she was in the past, I couldn’t compare the person she was then to the new person she is now. I don’t feel as though she grew very much throughout the book either. There was just no before and after, for me. There is a point in the book where Penny goes home to visit and her sister mentions that she seems like a different person. I personally didn’t really see any changes in her, and that’s my main criticism of the book.
I think that the character development was probably overshadowed a little bit by all of the other things that were going on in the book. The book incorporates a lot of issues like post-natal depression, Alzheimer’s disease, blindness and grief. I actually really enjoyed that these things were mentioned and explored but I think it took away the emphasis of the character growth that we were supposed to be seeing. Having said that, I don’t think this book would have been as interesting if it hadn’t explored those issues and shone a light on the struggles of the people who suffer from those conditions.
I really loved the pace of this book. It’s quite slow in pace, and really allows you to immerse yourself into the book and the situation. The flow of the book was really good and it never felt like it was too slow. The pace of the book was consistent and very comfortable to read. As with a lot of self-published works, there were some unnecessary details scattered here and there and it could have been edited down a little bit. But I thought the writing was easy to read and not overly purple prose or overly simple.
What I enjoyed the most about Outspoken were the characters. I could really relate to a lot of the things that Penny was feeling. I connected with all of her feelings about not being in control of her own life, because I’ve also had my own period of being forced to take a million extracurriculars as a young teen. I liked all of the moments where she was able to speak her own mind (though there were times when I was a little bit horrified by how rude she was). I also really liked her love interest, Archer. He’s the introverted and broody type that I naturally find myself drawn to. But he was also more complex than a lot of other YA male love interests. It was really refreshing to see his flaws and his darker side, and he still made me swoon. There were a lot of interesting side characters too and they all warmed my heart.
I liked Penny and Archer separately but I liked them even more together. In fact, my favourite scenes in the book were when they were together. They brought out the best in each other and were able to open up and speak honestly to each other, even though they sometimes hid from others around them. I thought they had a really special relationship and really supported each other. I also feel like their relationship developed very naturally – it didn’t feel insta-lovey and there was no dancing around each other. The whole relationship just felt very honest.
I really recommend this book! I love reading and promoting self-published authors (they need love too!) and this is a really impressive self-published contemporary YA novel. If you enjoy reading contemporaries, especially those with great romances and some road trip elements, I think you’ll really like Outspoken.