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Book Review: Dating Down

Dating Down. Stefanie Lyons. Flux, April 8, 2015, Trade Paperback and Kindle, 312 pages.

Reviewed by Deanna Frances. 

Dating Down by Stefanie Lyons is a young adult realistic fiction novel written in a prose style that takes the point of view of an upper-middle-class Chicago teenager named Samantha Henderson. Dating Down is Lyon’s first novel and tells the story of Samantha’s relationship with an “unnamed college guy” called “X”.

The novel begins with Samantha’s first encounters with “X” at a local coffee shop where he works. The first few chapters also provide background information on Samantha, her friends, and family. The reader learns early that Samantha is known as an average high school “good girl” living in the middle of a political world while her father runs for public office. In the chaos of the election, taking care of her younger half-sister, and dealing with the death of her mother, Samantha turns to “X” as an adventurous escape from responsibility.

As Samantha’s relationship with “X” grows, she finds herself thrown into a world of college parties, alcohol, drugs, and rebellious behavior that is completely new to her. Samantha begins to believe that she can be “X’s” reason to become a more grounded person, and that pulls her good friends and family further away from her. Samantha struggles with her longing for being noticed by “X” and keeping her friends and family while realizing the perfect life that she has always had.

As a young adult reader, I truly enjoyed Dating Down. I’ve found that the prose writing style keeps young readers engaged, and that is exactly what this novel did for me. I was able to keep engaged in Samantha’s story with the lyrical prose style of writing. I also enjoyed the local setting of the story. It was easy for me to imagine the setting when Lyons described the Chicago area.

Samantha’s relatable teenage life was also a strong point. Young adult readers, like me, enjoy reading novels they can relate to, and this novel definitely hit that focal point. Samantha lives in a typical middle-class family and has relatable friends and family members. Being able to relate to Samantha as the main character in the story made the reading experience even more enjoyable.

The mystery of the unnamed boy “X” made this novel stand apart from other realistic fiction novels that I’ve read. Although many points of this novel are very clear and relatable, “X” adds mystery and rebellion to the story. His life seems to be completely opposite from Samantha’s, and that added an additional element of darkness which kept me engaged while I was reading.

Overall, I believe that Stefanie Lyons has created a wonderful first novel for young adult readers and fans of young adult realistic fiction. The relatable elements of the novel, and the lyrical prose writing style, keep readers engaged and interested in the story. I look forward to reading more from Stefanie Lyons in the future.


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