Book Review: By the Book

Title: By the Book

Author: Amanda Sellet

Pub. Date: May 12, 2020

Pages: 384

Pub: HMH Books for Young Readers

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women. So, when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair. As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.


This will be a spoiler free review. I listened to the audiobook via Audible. Overall I enjoyed this, thought it was really cute and just fun. It took me a little bit to get into it, I wasn’t a big fan of the way Mary talked and I found her kind of annoying. I also thought the book was so long – and I listened it at 1.8x speed.

It took a bit for me to warm up to Mary. As I character, I liked her and could relate somewhat. I’ve been the new kid, coming into a school where everything is different than what I knew, and where everyone has known each other since diapers. It’s hard to fit in, but once you find your people, things start looking up. But I really couldn’t stand the way she talked – so formal and stiff. And coming from someone who would rather stay home and read – Mary needed to get out and live life a little.

I’m also not entirely a fan of rating people based on preconceived notions, so I felt like that was a tad unfair to those they were rating – even if it was warranted in some cases. Looking at you German Asshat. Jfc, he was the worst. So damn pretentious and obnoxious.

But Alex – oh Alex. Mary is a dumbass for not seeing it sooner. He’s wonderful. He’s caring, funny, charming, a bit of a flirt, attentive and just wonderful. He’s so sweet with Mary – even though the light teasing. You can just tell how much he cares – even when Mary can’t see it herself. I loved the fact that when he was around her, he was always close. Not so close as to be up in her personal space, but close enough that Mary really should have noticed his affections before. I loved him and I would die if I had an Alex.

As for Anjuli – just no. I’ve been through my fair share of supposed friends doing what she did, and I have no patience for it. It’s an absolutely shit thing to do to someone. I don’t even care that it’s accurate to high school – it hit too close to home and I’m not about it.

Her other friends Arden, Terry and Lydia are fun and enjoyable – a bit over the top and a bit quick to jump on this whole “let’s judge guys” train (under the guise of enlightenment). But I liked them, and I liked how they accepted Mary for who she is. Being the new person and finding friends is terrifying and nerve wracking and I felt for Mary. But having been burned before, I kept waiting for the shoe to drop, and for them to end up leaving her.

I really need to stop letting my own past influence skeptical/negative thoughts. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that some people aren’t more or less stabbed in the back by the people they consider their best friends.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and thought it was a strong debut. I liked Mary’s family – her younger brother was a highlight and a joy. I do think it was a tad long and could have been slightly shorter, and once I warmed up to Mary, I loved her and the way she viewed the world. If you’re looking for a contemporary romance and you just want to feel good and have the warm fuzzies – then I do recommend this book!

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