Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
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.
Overall, very entertaining and just what I needed after a long spree of too any fantasy/adventure type books.
Not my favorite Sarah Dessen novel, but – like almost all of her books – it was cute. It was a nice present day romance without swooning and blushing and a thousand-and-one things getting in-between the love interests. It’s a high school romance without the other bratty teenage girls that are so typically portrayed. There are bad decisions, of course, as is always the case when you are a teenager, but nothing over embellished. Nothing eye-roll worthy and making me think Sydney as stupid.
“It was a weird kind of loneliness, feeling that some of my closest friends didn’t actually know I existed.”
I found it very realistic, actually. Not only Sydney’s predicament with not feeling seen by her parents and living in the shadow of her older brother, who is all their mother can think about, but with the overall family spectrum. Sydney is not a whinny, selfish teenage girl – in fact, she acts much older than her age dictates, but I suppose you’re forced to grow up quicker when an older sibling shows you what consequences can really be like and when you’re treated like you’ve already made bad choices, like it’s simply expected of you.
“It was unrealistic to expect to be constantly in the happiest place. In real life, you’re lucky just to be always somewhere nearby.”
Sydney’s mother is a control freak to the max. Everything must be done to her standards and hers alone, and if you dare to infringe on this, then you’re being selfish. And then there’s the father, who will never, ever go over his wife’s head and will never disagree with anything she says. Once she decides something, it’s law. Even if the father doesn’t agree with it, he’s not going to say anything.
I can wholeheartedly understand why Sydney can’t talk to her family. While her mother is tying her down with a leash because she’s scared Sydney’s going to end up like her brother, she’s also making it very clear that this is the hardest on her, and doing something – such as maybe telling her mother about creepy Amie who her mother loves – is just adding on to the burden.
Frankly, I wouldn’t talk to Sydney’s mother. Because no matter what you’d say, her mother would only hear that Sydney didn’t understand how hard this was on her, and didn’t she understand that Peyton came first?
Ugh. So frustrating.
But what I loved about this book mostly was Sydney’s relationship with Layla and Mac. Her friendship with Layla is easy, simple. It’s not like the typical best girlfriend friendships you see so often portrayed in YA books where each girl stabs the other in the back more than once and it’s more of a hate/love relationship that could make your head spin.
With Layla, she’s nonjudgmental and Sydney can cry in front of her without worrying how she’ll take it. That’s the kind of relationship I love reading about. I also love that they never have some great, petty blowout. Even when something does happen between them, they get over it. They see it as something that may hurt for a moment or so, but talk to each other without being petty and get over it.
It’s flippin’ great.
I’m a real sucker for best girlfriend relationships in books. I could read wholly about these kinds . . . if they’re done well, of course. Because friendships between girls can be a funny thing . . . They can be so strong that it’s like the girls claw their way into each other and sink so deeply that they forget what it was like to ever be alone, even during all the breakups and all the other crap in life.
I loved Mac and the fact that he’s not cocky but not shy, either. He’s simple and kind, and Sydney never has reason to feel jealous or question him. He’s kind of like a best friend with kissing on the side. It’s glorious.
I also very much likes that he’s Layla’s brother. Usually I’d see the new friend crushing on her friends brother as a flashing red zone, but here, it worked nicely. Not only because it made things simple eventually, but because I loved the brother-sister bond as well.
“He had a nice smile. Seeing it, I felt like I’d won a prize, because he was so sparing with them.”
My only big issue was the ending. It’s not a bad ending, exactly, but I think that’s my problem. It’s too good of an ending. Like a Disney ending, where everything is hunky-dory and all problems have been solved. Like, no. Life doesn’t happen that way, thanks.
I don’t like reading YA books that have a perfect ending, especially when it’s a life-struggles, present day kind of book. I like it when not everything is perfect because that’s how life is.
But here . . . it was just too nice. Sydney’s mother just all of a sudden has this realization she needs to chance, and I just don’t buy it. Something like Sydney’s mother doesn’t change that easily. And definitely not that quick, either.