At the beginning of this book, we meet a fairly normal-looking family starting their summer vacation at the family house on Cape Cod. At the end of th...moreAt the beginning of this book, we meet a fairly normal-looking family starting their summer vacation at the family house on Cape Cod. At the end of the prologue, we get the inkling that something bad is going to happen to this family, and that very soon the summer house will be sold and the parents divorce.
The story then jumps about 20 years, to a time when the children are adults, and whatever happened after that summer is old news. This is a perfectly good technique if the writer is more interested in showing the long term effects of something than the immediate impact.
And it would have worked just fine in this case, except that the prologue was so short I wasn't able to develop any sympathy with the characters. Instead of getting the continuation of a story I was already invested in, I got a stub that wasn't enough to carry me though the rest of the book. But I persevered, and throughout the rest of the book, Haigh gives enough of the backstory for me to start to feel a little bit of sympathy, or at least to be a little bit interested in what happens to them.
Overall, the writing is quite fine, but the story itself winds up being a bit disappointing.(less)
Ok, this book is a little pat in some places. Turning your life around is probably not as easy as Carolyn Mackler would make it out to be. That being...moreOk, this book is a little pat in some places. Turning your life around is probably not as easy as Carolyn Mackler would make it out to be. That being said, this is a really good book. Virginia (or Ginny) is a believable, sympathetic, likable character. Her problems are real, and her solutions to them are fun, if not entirely realistic. But they work for her, and I, at least, was willing to go along for the ride.
A good read aside, Mackler also deals with some serious issues in the book, including date rape and eating disorders (no, neither apply directly to Ginny). These I thought she dealt with very well, and very realistically, showing that not everything wraps up in a neat package at the end, and not every problem can always be solved.
Overall, this is just a good story about a girl who manages to find ways to empower herself despite not always (or usually) getting a lot of support from her family. But she has help from other people around her and figures out how to be herself, and, more importantly, how to be comfortable being herself.(less)
Maynard's premise in this book is an interesting one. Unfortunately, her efforts to be coy about that premise result only in heavy-handed foreshadowin...moreMaynard's premise in this book is an interesting one. Unfortunately, her efforts to be coy about that premise result only in heavy-handed foreshadowing that really leaves very little to the reader's imagination. Given how much she gives away, it seems that what was really important was not what the big secret was, but how the characters would react once they found out. That being the case, I wonder why Maynard chose to frustrate the reader by giving away almost the whole thing through less-than-subtle hints rather than just telling the reader what happened in the beginning and letting the story focus on the characters and how learning the truth changes (or doesn't change) their lives. There are a few details that are left unanswered until the big reveal near the end, but it wasn't enough to maintain any sort of narrative tension.
Once I got beyond the fact that there was no mystery where it seemed like there was supposed to be one, I was able to enjoy this book. Maynard's descriptions of her settings are beautiful, and I did find myself caring about the characters and how they would deal with finding out the truth. Unfortunately, the lovely prose does not make up for the narrative shortcomings.(less)
The entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was missing something, like it was the sequel to a book I hadn't read. Relationships were writt...moreThe entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was missing something, like it was the sequel to a book I hadn't read. Relationships were written as though there was a lot of tension between characters, but nothing was developed enough (either in the backstory or the present story) for me to really care about where the tension came from, or whether it got resolved. Most of the characters seemed to just drift through the story, occasionally colliding with each other in encounters that were evidently supposed to be very weighty, but really just seemed like random plot devices. I think Kluge was aiming for high drama, but only managed to give us melodrama.(less)
I have never seen an advance copy of a book so rife with typos. I understand that it's an "uncorrected proof" but this book looked like it had never e...moreI have never seen an advance copy of a book so rife with typos. I understand that it's an "uncorrected proof" but this book looked like it had never even been in the same room as an editor. I tried not to let that get in the way of the story however, as I assume that the typos, at the very least, will be corrected before the book is actually published. If not, perhaps Harper would like to hire me as a proofreader.
Even trying to overlook the glaring mistakes in the text, I had a hard time with this book. I did find myself pulled into the story at some points, but overall I found this book to be trite (especially some of the dialogue) and poorly thought-out. The characters are flat and behave inconsistently and unrealistically. Add to that an ending that was far too neat, and this book was very disappointing.(less)
There is a lot of sex in the beginning of this book, most of it witnessed, which is good (or at least better than the alternative) since the main char...moreThere is a lot of sex in the beginning of this book, most of it witnessed, which is good (or at least better than the alternative) since the main character, Elly, is a young girl. Other sex is implied, making it difficult to know what actually happened. I found this to be a very frustrating way of story-telling, since so much of Elly's character is supposedly shaped by this implied sex. This is not the only piece of the story that is told through implication. Elly's relationship with another character takes on importance in adulthood that is does not seem justified by what is revealed to the reader in her childhood. I almost felt as though a critical scene has been edited out of the book which would explain how Elly came to be so close to this character later in life. In the end, this book required too much guesswork for me.(less)
It may be a cliche to say that you laughed so hard you cried, except that I did while reading this book. Several times. Greene tells the story of how...moreIt may be a cliche to say that you laughed so hard you cried, except that I did while reading this book. Several times. Greene tells the story of how her family created itself with such wonderful humor that you can't help but fall in love with them all.
Of course, a book like this can't be all sunshine and smiles, and Greene doesn't pull her punches when relating stories of family tribulation. Nor does she leave us in any doubt that children around the world face horrifying poverty and hunger every day.
If this book has a flaw, it's that it's a little uneven. In the midst of discussing the process of adopting one child, the narrative jumps back to relate an anecdote involving an older child, or Green's own childhood. These leaps never detract from the overall story, but the transitions are sometimes jarring.
Another cliche: this book is both hysterical and heartbreaking. But mostly it is about how family bonds are about love and effort more than blood.(less)