My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: May 5th, 2015
Point of View: 1st Person & Feminine
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Family, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Romance
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.
It’s been close to five years since I last read a Sarah Dessen book. In my defence, she doesn’t publish them every year, but I guess I just forgot how enjoyable they truly are.
I had my reservations going into this novel, because the title made me think that there was going to be a huge amount of religion, which I prefer to stay away from, but religion is not one of the themes, fortunately for me.
Since I know what it’s like to have an older brother who gets into trouble, I connected with Sydney more than I could have hoped to. While my brother never actually got sentenced for anything, he did do some, pardon my language, stupid things, just like Peyton did.
Except Peyton actually paralyzed a guy, so now he has to do prison time. It’s not just that Sydney lost her brother; she also lost her parents. Peyton has become their sole focus. They barely pay attention to her. It didn’t use to bother her, but it’s starting to make her feel very lonely.
I absolutely believe Sarah Dessen has created some unforgettable characters here. Lovely Sydney is, of course, one of them, and so are all the new friends she has made changing schools. I appreciated the low amount of romance and the high focus on family and friendship relationships.
While there is a love interest – who is good in every way – this isn’t about Sydney falling in love. It’s about her gaining confidence, becoming visible again in the eyes of her family and overcoming her fears.
Sarah Dessen’s writing is majestic. Alright, maybe not, but I just really wanted to use that word, because I never get the chance to. She does write beautifully though, even if not necessarily poetically. She doesn’t write to impress or draw tears to our eyes; she writes to describe and create realistic settings. Although there are some heavy scenes that definitely stirred something inside me.
Recommended. Go read now.
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