Author: Maria Padian
Release Date: March 2011
Published By: Knopf Books
Pages: 352 pages
Goodreads Rating: 4.30 stars
Review: Henry and Eva are as different as two girls get. Henry is a fierce tennis player, excelling in tournaments while her aggressive father watches and belittles her opponents. On the other side, Eva is a talented ballerina who loves to dance and has a mother who lives through her. Despite their differences, the two are best friends, or at least until both of them get opportunities to expand their abilities - Henry to an exclusive tennis camp and Eva to a prestigious ballet summer program. Their friendship begins to strain from the distance, and then Eva's strive for perfection collapses upon her with disastrous results.
In a time when nearly all young adult books have romance as either the plot or among the main sub-plots, JERSEY TOMATOES ARE THE BEST was refreshing with its strong theme of friendship. Though love was touched on, Henry and Eva's friendship was the focus of the book, which made it stand out among many and provided a break from all the romance-heavy books I've read. One aspect that I really appreciated was how realistically the friendship was portrayed; with its ups and downs, it mirrored the way a real teenage relationship works without feeling forced at any point.
The story is told between alternating viewpoints of Henry and Eva. It's easy to see how truly different they are, and at the same time, how truly the same. Henry is fresh, energetic, and strong, quickly rising to the top at her tennis camp and making good friends, and even a boyfriend. Eva, however, while still getting special attention from the director of the program, isn't faring quite as well. The pressure on her to be perfect, particularly with her body, is stronger than ever and the other girls are jealous of her. Her storyline was darker and fraught with insecurities that were painfully honest.
The feel-good ending was perfect for this touching and funny book, showing that true friendship can overcome anything. Reading this book even with the darker parts ultimately left me in a happy, optimistic mood, and I find my thoughts returning to it again and again. Alternately hilarious and wrenching, JERSEY TOMATOES ARE THE BEST is contemporary at its finest, and will absolutely make its way onto my Best of 2011 list at the end of the year.
FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. This is no way affected my review, which is 100% honest.