Title: GIRL ON THE FERRIS WHEEL
Author: JULIE HALPERN, LEN VLAHOS
Publication Date: JANUARY 12, 2021
ABOUT THE BOOK
Tenth graders Eliana and Dmitri could not be more different. He’s an outgoing, self-confident drummer in a punk rock band called Unexpected Turbulence. Eliana is introspective and thoughtful, and a movie buff who is living with depression.
Dmitri quite literally falls for Eliana when he sees her in gym class and slams into a classmate. The pair then navigate the ins and outs of first love. Exciting, scary, unexpected, and so much more difficult than they ever imagined. They say opposites attract, but they soon realize that there is so much they just don’t understand about each other. It begs the question: How long can first love possibly last when you’re so different?
YA-Contemporary rockstar romance? I’m sold, count me in!
Anybody who knows me know how much I like reading about rockstar romances, usually the one I read are the New Adult (NA) and Adult ones. So seeing there’s a Young Adult (YA) rockstar romance book is refreshing to me. I was wondering how the rockstar element will be written, handled and portrayed in a YA book. Let’s just say that I was impressed with how the authors are using the rockstar element in this book.
It has been quite awhile since I last read a YA-Contemporary book, and it was good to be back reading it again starting with this incredibly amazing book. There isn’t enough words to describe how I felt about this book. It was a very well-written book with a good and emotional storyline and an engaging plot. Also, the main characters are both relatable—especially the heroine—and both are also pretty likable in my opinion.
There was a few heavy topics that are being discussed in this book: anxiety, depression, and suicide. I wasn’t surprised at all since many YA books (especially contemporaries) tend to have these subjects in the story. I actually really enjoyed reading about it, it makes the characters easy to understand when they are down, angry, sad etc.
This book also touched on a few subjects regarding the culture and tradition of the Greeks and the Jews. Dmitri the male lead is a Greek, and Eliana the female lead is a Jew. There are a few parts that showed the differences between the Jews and the Greeks when they are celebrating Christmas, and also how both are handling the death of a family member according to their own tradition.
It was really rare to see a book exploring these things in more depth and showing an actual scene for it. Usually, it was either briefly mentioned or shortly explained by the characters in most books. I’m glad this book handled it differently. It gave the readers a lot more insight and additional informations regarding the characters too.
This book is about Dmitri and Eliana, their relationship, and the problems they are facing in their respective lives (Dmitri with his band, Eliana with her depression). It also showed how they fall in love with each other, the ups and downs of their relationship, and the heartbreak that comes from it. They are each others first love, and the heartbreak after their relationship fell apart was unbearable. It made me feel emotional and sad, it hurts to watch these two precious characters went through it.
I practically tortured my own soul by reading this book. I wasn’t fine with what went down in the story especially during and after the heartbreaking part, but also slightly happy with the ending. I was conflicted with how the book ended. It was sort of an open ending, like it was up to your imagination how you want it to end. There wasn’t a confirmation that they’re back together, only that they became friends.
I strongly want them to get back as a couple again but also understood why they stayed as friends. Both mentioned of looking forward to things coming their way, and they might or might not hinted at wanting to get back together. When a book ended like this, I usually just made up my own ending. Call me what you want, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one doing this.
Sad and emotional moments aside, let’s talk about the funny moments in this book. There are plenty of it, and I had a really good laugh reading those parts. My most favorite was when Dmitri’s aunt asked Eliana about circumcision, and reading what she was saying in her head about it was straight up hilarious. I had to put my iPad down a few times until I stop laughing, or else I won’t be able to continue reading the book.
At least this book got plenty of funny moments to bring balance into the story, so that it wasn’t always just sad. To be honest, reading this book is like having mood swings; one second you’re happy and laughing out loud, the next you’re sad and crying. This book evoked so many emotions. If you want to read this book, just be prepared.
Another thing I wanted to add was Dmitri’s band called Unexpected Turbulence. Even though this book doesn’t focus a lot on his band, I was grateful that the authors showed a little bit about the dynamic between the band members, the band practice session, and their professionalism as a group whenever they are performing on stage. I liked seeing all of it except for the part with Chad being obnoxious, that was my most least favorite part.
They are a punk rock band trying to make it big. They might not be widely famous yet but they’ve gained many fans and people appreciate the talents of each member and their hard work together. I also get to see Dmitri’s songwriting talent, he was actually good at it. That talent of his clearly jumped out after spending some time with Eliana. The more reason why they are so adorable together. It was nice to see a little bit of the rockstar element in this book.
Now let’s talk about the characters…
Eliana is one of the most relatable female leads, I know not many readers can relate to her but I do. She was struggling with depression and that was similar to my situation in which I’ve struggled with my depression. I understood why she acted the way she did; not in the mood, want to hide instead of going out, overthinking, lashing out, crying because it feels like her world crumbles down while everyone continue living their lives normally etc.
Some readers might find that irritating and frustrating, but that’s what depression do to you. I know not everyone handles depression the same way, but I do see some similarities between how she handled hers and how I handled mine. The authors did a great job portraying how depression looks like in this book, and what it would do to someone that have been struggling with it for years. Not many books I’ve read did justice when it comes to portraying depression, so it was nice to see it was written and portrayed realistically in this book.
Reading the part where she was still struggling despite feeling happy with her relationship with Dmitri was just heartbreaking to read. I knew things will go south between them, especially when she still struggled with her mental health. I just wanted her to know that she’s enough, that she’s important, and I wanted to see her truly happy. Eliana’s struggle is the hardest part to read in the whole book. I just wanted to give her a big hug.
All things regarding her mental struggle aside, Eliana is actually a very likable character. She was pretty intelligent, had a good sense of humor, quick in understanding stuff, and is a good sister and a good friend. She has a great personality, and an amazing attitude. When she wasn’t struggling with her mental health, she became a very confident young woman and I really loved seeing that side of her. The side that wasn’t afraid to take chances, and the side that wasn’t afraid to express her feelings. Overall, she is an incredibly amazing character and how she was written in the book was realistic especially with her inner struggles.
Dmitri on the other hand is a really great guy with many talents. He wasn’t just a bit shy and awkward but also confident and protective. I’ve never seen many male leads in most books have a shy and awkward sides, most are just confident all the way through. So to see Dmitri have all three was really refreshing which made him a lot more realistic than most male leads.
He was also just as likable as Eliana, and I feel really attached to these two because it was really easy to connect with them and understand them. There are times when I was a bit frustrated with him, especially when he didn’t understand why Eliana was irritated by him talking to another girl and doesn’t went looking for her while she was gone for a few minutes trying to cool down.
Honestly, guys don’t understand much about girls and girls need to spell it out for them. And knowing Eliana especially when that inner voice made her doubt everything, she wouldn’t do that, she would be too insecure and so she just let it be. That was the only part in the book that I wanted to yell at Dmitri to go look for Eliana, and pay more attention to her. Other than that, he was fine alright.
I have to give a standing ovation to him for making a lot of effort in trying to make things right between them, and how he made sure Eliana is comfortable being around his family and relatives. He did all the right things to make sure she doesn’t feel out of place. I also liked how he make time to learn more about her with the help of her best friend, Janina. And also thanks to his little brother for making him see the problems clearly so that he’ll know what to do to improve himself.
Without the help of a friend and a little brother, Dmitri and Eliana might not be able to mend things that are broken between them. I was just glad they have trustworthy people to support them and give them some advice.
Also bonus point to Yia Yia, Dmitri’s grandmother who is also the best person to give any advice to Eliana and Dmitri. She was amazing throughout the whole story, and I really enjoyed seeing her making jokes trying to lighten up the mood, making Eliana feel welcome and giving her advice so that she will stop thinking of the worst. She literally is the best grandmother.
As for the romance, it was really cute and beautiful. I liked how Dmitri and Eliana are both so awkward at first but then when they started talking, they automatically felt comfortable around each other. I still can’t forget how awkward things was at first that a few disastrous things happened at school. Eliana was horrified, and Dmitri acted like nothing happened the next day. That whole thing was pure comedy.
I find that Dmitri is a romantic. He wrote a song for Eliana and asked his band to play it while she was in the crowd watching, he brought her to meet his family and introduced her to them at the Greek festival, and he even brought her to hang out in the ferris wheel so they will have an alone time to get to know each other better. He knew what he was doing, it was really romantic the way I see it.
I loved their relationship so much, it was the most purest thing to see in this book. They are meant to be together but obviously ups and downs always happened in any relationship to test whether the couple can face it or not. Despite the ups and downs, I liked how Dmitri never give up trying to make things right and trying to help Eliana with her mental struggle. He was so protective of her that he wanted to shield her away from whatever that can make her feel vulnerable. It was sweet how he never back down every time she avoided him.
In the end, I’m happy they are back to how they were before. Not together as a couple but as friends, although I was hoping they would become a couple again. I get why the authors didn’t write it that way, after all both are still too young and Eliana have a lot of baggage and she just want to focus on making herself feel better. She didn’t deny that she still have feelings for Dmitri and vice versa. Both have things they needed to take care of on their own.
I also think the reason why the authors decided to make this story have an open ending is so that the readers can make up their own ending, like after that ending what will happen to Dmitri and Eliana’s relationship. For most, the ending might not be an open ending but for me, that was an open ending because I see it that way. I’m not saying that I’m right and everyone else is wrong, all I’m saying is that everyone interpret stories differently from one another and to me that is one of the many unique abilities that us readers have.
Overall, the story was enjoyable to read. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, but that was to be expected especially when it comes to first love and first heartbreak. This book was written stunningly, and I was really amazed by how everything went down in the story. Some things made me laugh, some made me sad but I really had a great experience reading the story of Dmitri and Eliana, and following their journey from the first moment they met until the moment they reunited. It was a beautiful experience, and pretty much sure I’m going to revisit their story in the near future.
Julie Halpern is the award-winning author of seven young adult novels, one novel for adults, and one picture book for young readers. In her imaginary spare time she enjoys traveling, making cosplay for her kids, and eating baked goods. Julie lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Caldecott-winning author and illustrator Matthew Cordell, and their two children.
Len Vlahos dropped out of NYU film school in the mid ’80s to play guitar and write songs for Woofing Cookies, a punk-pop four piece that toured up and down the East Coast, and had two singles and one full-length LP on Midnight Records. After the band broke up, he followed his other passion, books. He is the author of The Scar Boys, a William C. Morris Award finalist and a #1 Indie Next pick, and Scar Girl, the book’s sequel. Len lives in Denver with his wife and two young sons, where he owns the Tattered Cover Book Store.