Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson (384 pages)
When one of her classmates, Martin Nathaniel Munroe II, texts her about homework, Haley thinks she knows who she’s talking to. But there are two Martins with the same name in Haley’s class (it’s a long story, which thankfully, the book explains). By the time Martin realizes Haley thinks he’s the other one, their new friendship makes him weary of telling her the truth.
Technically, You Started It is one long text message conversation between the main characters, Haley and Martin, that spans months. Their dialogue was playful yet serious and occasionally cryptic, and I loved zeroing in on their budding friendship and growing trust through their texts. They revealed so much, yet sometimes it was more about what they weren’t willing to reveal and the vulnerabilities behind their guardedness. While the text message-only format worked, occasionally I had the feeling that something was missing. It was like Haley and Martin were the focus of a well-drawn, colourful illustration, but the background was blurry and faraway. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I would’ve liked more of the full picture, and to see any in-person conversations first hand, instead of recapped later via text.
The characters themselves, as well as the impending reveal (if/when Haley learned that her Martin wasn’t the one she thought he was) kept me reading—flying, honestly—through their back-and-forth. As their relationship grew, they showed more of their souls and that gradual bloom of friendship (which felt like a thing I could actually see) was my favourite part of the novel.
The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars
In the end, the format worked well enough—I just wanted a fuller picture of Haley and Martin’s in-person interactions and of their surroundings. Technically, You Started It is a solid debut (not to mention a fast read considering the format) with compelling characters and a heartfelt relationship.
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Jamie Mitchell is a writer, library assistant, former bookseller, and all-around lover of the written word. She’s currently working on her fifth novel, and if you’re wondering where the other four are, they’re safe on her laptop and in need of rewriting. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, and enjoys traveling, bookstagramming and experimenting with gluten-free flours.
Favourite book: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Favourite brunch spot: 1823 Bakehouse