Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.
I have read most of Sarah Dessen’s books. If I’m correct in my thinking there’s like one or two that I haven’t picked up. My favorites are Lock and Key and The Truth about Forever (the first one I read by her).
Her books follow a formula. I noticed it early in my reading of her. Girl has ‘normal’ (to her) life, something changes, good-looking and different boy enters and through him and her new circumstances, she grows. This could be seen as a negative, but I don’t look at it like that.
All books follow a formula of some kind. Nothing new under the sun, right? There is no original story out there waiting to be told. Everything has been done, and all you can do as a writer is hope to put a slightly new sheen to the familiar story.
Dessen writes a darn good formula. I never got to read her as a teen, coming to her books in my twenties. But I would have LOVED her books when I was sixteen. I probably wouldn’t have recognized the ‘formula’ (I wasn’t quite as overly aware back then) and I just would have delighted in the stories and how they sucked me in completely. They suck me in now, despite my oh so grownup ways.
Her stories have girls with all sorts of abilities and flaws. Her side characters are vivid (I really loved Layla and her family in this one) and I find that I smile a lot when reading. I can freely recommend these books to my students without worrying about whether or not they have any inappropriateness in them. That doesn’t make them too twee, as Dessen deals with issues in her books, but they are dealt with in a way that is not gratuitous. I’m grateful for that.
So Ms. Dessen, thanks. I really liked this one and can’t wait for the next.
Also, someone make this one into a movie. It’s begging for it. 🙂
Rating: *** out of five
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