Girl on the Ferris Wheel (2021)

by Julie Halpern & Len Vlahos
ISBN: 9781250169396
Publication: January 12, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Contemporary YA is not a genre I typically read unless bloggers I follow recommend it (see…bloggers are influential and contribute to the bookish world going round, woohoo!).  With a glowing review and an interesting synopsis, I may be persuaded to pick it up. I don’t know if I would have picked The Girl on the Ferris Wheel had I not had access to an ARC. I’m glad I did because Girl on the Ferris Wheel turned out to be really good.

Halper and Vlaho took me on an emotional ride while navigating first love with Dmitri and Emilia.  It reverted me to high school when insecurities were often at their pinnacle and love was thought to conquer everything.  They successfully captured the ins and outs of a relationship, from the butterflies and sparks to the tears that often accompany the anguish and confusion.  While the book focuses on first love and a first relationship, many of the messages that can be taken away from Dmitri and Emilia’s relationship is universal to all relationships: relationships are hard and communication is key.  And, oftentimes, to put our best foot forward in a relationship, we have to learn to love ourselves first.

Emilia’s battle with depression was an added layer to her character and subsequently the relationship. I thought it was depicted fairly well, providing both the perspective of the person suffering from depression as well as the person in love with someone suffering from depression.  Emilia already had a lot of self-doubts but the depression seemed to exacerbate those doubts while Dmitri kept trying to show her how much he loved her. Experience with depression allowed me to connect easily with Emilia but Dmitri provided me a glimpse of what it feels like to be the person on the other side. It can be difficult for all those involved.

(A fast list of gripes and likes.) I hated the way Emilia treated her dad, and I had to remind myself that at that age sometimes I could be a little sh*t too. Some of the things she said about her guidance counselor also annoyed me despite all the things he did for her. Yia Yia, Dmitri’s grandma, was one of my favorite characters.  Her wisdom at poignant moments in the book was greatly welcomed.  Janina exemplified what a best friend should often be, someone who is supportive and listens but willing to give a push when needed.  I was back and forth about the inclusion of Dmitri’s family, particularly his father, being racist and anti-black, because I’m not sure how much value, if any, that added to the narrative. It appeared like it was meant to add to the detail of his father being ultra conservative. There is also an abundance of Harry Potter references–not one or two but scattered in nearly every chapter.

Overall, I think Halper and Vlaho pretty much nailed it.  It’s written well and I greatly enjoyed it. There were moments that made me laugh, moments I could relate to, and moments that made me shake my head because I recalled those feelings so well. In terms of age level, it might fall at the lower end of YA but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be enjoyed by those older—again, I enjoyed it a lot. 

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