Gudenkauf has crafted another heavy, emotionally fraught novel full of darkness, fear, secrets, hope, and the possibility of redemption and second cha...moreGudenkauf has crafted another heavy, emotionally fraught novel full of darkness, fear, secrets, hope, and the possibility of redemption and second chances. This novel is not a joyful or fun read, but it is impressively emotional, weighted with serious issues and tragedy and, throughout, various and complicated manifestations of love. Again, I am impressed with Gudenkauf's deft touch on a dark topic, as I was impressed after reading The Weight of Silence. Again, she has crafted a novel populated with real people, not merely well-crafted characters; Gudenkauf translates humanity to the page. This novel's subtle, yet powerful consideration of family and parenting naturally allows the reader to relate, for various reasons, to different characters with their different relationships. Altogether, I am impressed with this new novel from Heather Gudenkauf. As weighty as the material may be in some parts, the story is carried throughout with a faint, tenuous thread of hope, and that is what remains with the reader more than anything else.(less)
This debut Young Adult novel by Sarah Ockler surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. The protagonist and narrator, Anna has an easy manner of self-revelation, self-deprecation, and descriptiveness. Overall, the story has a great flow to it; I just wanted to keep reading.
Some elements of the book I inevitably found unrealistic. The parents of Anna's best friend Frankie could be fleshed out and made more realistic. The treatment of some aspects of teen life, smoking, losing one's virginity, and sneaking out after curfew appeared in this book with little consideration for real life consequences. I guess I would just worry that as a YA book, this story almost seems to condone these behaviors.
As an objective reader, I reminded myself that the narrator is supposed to be a sixteen year old girl. The author does a great job of this, because the narration is pretty self-centered in a typical teenage fashion. The girl does not think much outside her world to explore what the adults in her life are going through. She gets glimpses into the grown up world, but does not seem to reflect on the relevance of that to her own teen life.
Altogether this was an enjoyable quick read for a mature woman. I think that a teen girl would also find many enjoyable elements. There is an excellent blend of seriousness, heavy topics such as first love, loss, grief, betrayal and the burden of secrets, mixed alongside the fluff of lighter topics like shopping, getting glammed-up, scoping out cute boys, and generally spending an idle summer month on the west coast. From a more critical perspective, there are some very minor little quirks that I could criticize- sure some of the plot devices are a little too convenient... but, altogether, this is a great book that I greatly enjoyed. It took me to a time in my life when I would've loved to be in a place like that where the two protagonists vacation.