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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After a foray into science fiction, New York Times bestselling author Victorine E. Lieske returns, in part, to familiar territory. The Practice Date is a roughly 11,000-word novelette that is a romance (like Not What She Seems) and is young adult (like The Overtaking) but is neither a suspense story nor a science fiction tale.

Think of it as a short John Hughes film, in print form. Like the Reader's Digest annotated version of Pretty In Pink. Or, for you readers who grew up in the '90s, maybe more like She's All That. Or maybe, considering the premise, more like Some Kind of Wonderful, with the focus on Mary Stuart Masterson instead of Lea Thompson.

You get the idea. It's a high school age rom-com. Most people who've liked Lieske's other books will like that.

The Practice Date places it's focus on the plainly-named Jane, who is troubled that her one-time best friend, Lance, has abandoned her to hang out with the high school in-crowd.

Then one day, he shows back up in her life, which she welcomes. But he wants her to help train him up to land a date with a cheerleader ... which is definitely not a welcome development. Because in their time apart, Jane's figured out she has feelings for Lance that go deeper than friendship, and she's so smitten that for the chance to spend time with him, she'll agree to almost anything ... even if it means allowing him to practice his dating etiquette ... on her.

At such a brief length, Lieske's lean, taut prose paints a nice portrait of Jane and Lance, and keeps her supporting cast small. Unfortunately, those who do appear in support are not as well-developed as they might be.

The most interesting of these is Nick, the jock who befriended Lance and brought him into the In Crowd. Nick barely appears in the novel directly, but his role in critical in many ways, and he receives an interesting, cliche-breaking backstory.

Only slightly less interesting is Colleen, Jane's best pal, who plays a solid support role, trying to knock some common sense into her friend, but never has a chance to break out and establish a life outside of her role as Jane's friend.

Tiffany, the cheerleader of Lance's affections, is virtually invisible in the book, except by reference in dialog, and so is underdeveloped as a rival for Lance's affections.

So the third-most-interesting supporting cast member ends up being Andrew, Jane's little brother, who is by turns a terror and a surprising source of support at times. In other words, he's... a little brother.

The parents in the novel don't quite reach John Hughes level, and barely show up to say, "Hi," a couple times. Of course, the life of a teen girl with a crush rarely revolves around her parents, so with only 11,000 words to play with, the relative invisibility of both Jane's parents, and Lance's, is forgivable.

Like all novelettes, the short form enforces a precision of focus upon the narrative, which is why the supporting cast feels a bit underdeveloped. Fortunately, this focus also allows both Jane and Lance to shine as the stars of the brief tale.

The characters inhabit a seemingly-nameless Middle American town that, fortunately, is not lacking in some personality; after reading about Jane and Lance's outing to Stuff-It Burger, I immediately wished there were such a franchise and that one existed near enough to visit.

(And it automatically sounds like a better restaurant concept than Soul Daddy, winner of America's Next Great Restaurant, which saw all three initial locations close after about six weeks to two months in operation. I still say Brooklyn Meatball Company was a broader-appeal concept.)

But I digress.

Taking the tale for what it is ... a very short novel with a tightly-focused tale ... The Practice Date is a lot of fun for as long as it lasts. The book will certainly leave the reader wanting more, and for that, there is Not What She Seems and The Overtaking. The Practice Date serves as a pleasant appetizer for both of Lieske's other works, but isn't enough to constitute a full meal on it's own.

P.S. Believe it or not, I did not write this review on an empty stomach!
 

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Nice job with the review, it sounds like a fun read.  I enjoyed Not What She Seems and have added this to my to read list.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
scl said:
Nice job with the review, it sounds like a fun read. I enjoyed Not What She Seems and have added this to my to read list.
Great to hear! Glad the review was helpful enough to aid your decision.
 
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