This was a challenging book to get into. All of the characters were pretty awful and it was hard to care about them. But then something magical happened. Somewhere at around the halfway point this book became difficult to put down. Suddenly I started to see little changes in the heroine, Auden, and I started to care what happened.
On the surface this is a book about a girl who spends the summer between high school and college with her dad and step-mom at their house in a little beach town. She finds friends and romance. But it’s actually much deeper.
Let’s talk about Auden. She’s the youngest of two children and because her parents “needed” her to be quiet and good as a child, she was. She never had a real childhood. She never had close friends, the color pink was frowned upon, and boys were a distraction to her studies — useless.
So when Auden moves in with her dad and step-mother, Heidi, for the summer, she’s dreading having to be around her perky pink-clad step-mother, Heidi. Not to mention the fact that her new baby half-sister NEVER. STOPS. CRYING.
When her parents were fighting, before the divorce, Auden stopped sleeping at night, instead she spent her nights hanging out at an all night diner. Now in the new beach town, she must find new ways to fill her nights. Soon after her arrival, she connects with the mysterious Eli. A friendship blossoms and, upon learning of Auden’s lack of a childhood, he’s determined to give her as many of those experiences as he can before she starts college in the fall.
On the surface, this is a book where not a lot happens. There’s a lot of repetition with the nightly activities between Auden and Eli, plus her job at Heidi’s store, but as Eli takes her on her quest, and things at home become shaky, Auden begins to change.
Let’s talk about the side characters for a second. They were great and awful and a big part of what makes Auden who she is. Her mother is a strong, independent, and powerful woman — very women’s rights and down with the patriarchy. Her dad is a failed writer. Her brother is a free spirit who has spent the last two years mooching off their parents backpacking through Europe.
Her mom comes across as cold-hearted and just mean. She seems to expect Auden to be a carbon copy of herself. Her dad is awful. He’s so selfish and ignorant.
But the people Auden meets in the beach town are amazing.
My main takeaway themes from this book are:
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover — there is far more to a person than what you see on the surface.
People can change — Every person close to Auden in this book showed signs of changing for the better. Even the most unredeemable characters take steps toward redemption.
Coming of Age — A huge theme in this book was Auden realizing who she is without her parents. When she separates herself from them and follows what feels is right in her own heart, who is she really? Is she a carbon copy of her mother? Or as selfish as her dad?
This review is getting WAY too long. For a book I really could have cared less about in the beginning, I’m shocked at how much I enjoyed this.
So, I’ll say my tiny bit of negatives and end this.
- The beginning dragged and a critical scene that was referenced multiple times later is glossed over so quickly that it either should have been cut or described.
- Very early on her dad and step-mom’s baby is called her stepsister. Grr! She’s her half-sister! Half and Step are VERY different things!!!
- I’d liked to have seen more romantic bits with Eli. Personal preference.
Even with those couple negatives, this is still a solid 4 star book for me. The second half was so enjoyable I nearly forgot how bored I was during the first half. I’ll definitely be reading more Sarah Dessen in the future.
I was such a smart kid, I should have figured out that the only way to really get my parents’ attention was to disappoint them or fail. But by the time I realized that, succeeding was already a habit too ingrained to break.
There is really nothing more intimidating than approaching a group of girls who have already made up their minds about you. It’s like walking a plank, no way to go but down.
Since I had no rain jacket, I had to borrow one from Heidi, who offered me three colors: bright pink, light pink, and, in her words, “dusty pink,” whatever that meant. I picked the light one, yet still felt positively radioactive as I walked down the gray, wet sidewalk, boldly contrasting with everything about me.
“Who says you have to be either smart or pretty, into girly stuff or sports? Life shouldn’t be about the either/or. We are capable of more than that, you know?”
“Look. I just…”
But no words followed. I just let this hang there, open-ended, waiting for him to jump in, finish it, do the hard part for me. It was my dad’s signature trick, and now I understood why. It was so much easier than having to say what you didn’t want to aloud.
I’d thought I knew so much when I’d arrived here, the smartest girl in the room. But I’d been wrong.
My (Writing) Life
I was going to be GOOD this week and post LOTS of my outstanding reviews. But then I didn’t. I did however get a LOT of my reviews posted at vendors, reviews that are already on the blog and Goodreads, and also submitted to NetGalley. There’s still a ways to go before I’m caught up, but I feel less stressed.
What else… I’m still slogging through reading Animal Farm, but I’m motivated to finish now because next up is going to be The Mummy by Anne Rice. I’ve got the sequel on my old phone from Penguin First Reads to read and I want to refresh my memory by re-reading The Mummy. It’s been a good decade since I first read it!
I’m making slow progress on SOMETHING I’M GOOD AT but that’s mostly right now because I decided to change the book from past tense to present. I usually hate present tense, but it’s starting to grow on me and I think it’ll really help with this particular series of books. (Three books planned at the moment, but I may expand. Who knows!)
I’m 100% certain I will not be posting any other reviews this weekend. It’s the Super Bowl weekend, which I could care less about, but the Super Bowl happens to be in my city this year and I happen to work at a hotel. It’s going to be a full house folks! (Best part of the Super Bowl being in town? One of my good friends demanding that anyone with any info on Justin Timberlake’s whereabouts contact her IMMEDIATELY!) But yeah, I’m working crazy long hours (just like last weekend!) and will be basically dead come Sunday night.
(Psst! Still looking for people who may be interested in reading and reviewing – or even doing a release day blast for – PEACE IN FLAMES my upper YA contemporary romance! Shoot me a message or leave a comment on the post.)