Actual Rating: 3.5
If I was to characterize this book in one word it would be somber. With a streak of hope at the end. For me, the book wasn't about the thievery or the illegality, but about the unhealthy and destructive relationship between Dani and her mother. Their relationship is the focal point for everything that happens in the novel. Dani, for her entire life, is dependent on her mother, like most children, but the dependency never dissipates. It may be because of their unstable family life and the constant moving that causes this dependency, but I think more likely it was Dani's mom who encourages and fosters Dani's inability to separate herself from her mother. Dani's mom, who we never learn her given name, was a high school drop out and stuck with a kid, but kind of finds her life's calling in theft. She loves moving around and seeing new places. She also gets a thrill out of doing the forbidden. Part of her personality is that she doesn't depend on anyone for emotional or financial support; her love of freedom. Which is what makes this book so interesting because she is so completely dependent on Danielle. Dani's mom makes Dani get her coffee every morning. Dani mentions that her mother never likes being tied down by anything and that she found her mother annoying when she asked what the mom's plan is for the future, how happy the mom is that she doesn't have to deal with that kind of thing. Except, that Dani asks these kind of questions all the time. Normally, you would assume that if you mix a flaky mom with a disreputable background, she would just abandon her child. Or if her mother truly loved her she would have given her up and given her a chance to find a better life, but she didn't. She kept Dani with her and helped create this dependency. Dani is constantly worried about what her mother would think. (view spoiler)[And when they are arrested Dani thinks and mentions to the cops that she could never give up her mom because she owes her so much. That no one else was there to love her. (hide spoiler)]
Dani is also an interesting character and other half of the mother-daughter relationship. At first, I thought that she was a little bit underdeveloped, but I realized that she needed to be. Dani has been overshadowed by her mother and her mother's wishes for so long that she had no time to become anyone. Throughout the book we can see her preferences, she doesn't like to drink coffee, but Dani has been so cutoff from normal interaction that she hasn't had time to develop any kind of personality. I could also see this with the thievery. She does it for her mother and at one point during her narrative tells us that she doesn't particular enjoy it either. However, it's not a moral issue or even as strong as her dislike of coffee. I think it's one of the reasons why she was so defensive with Greg and why she could only really ask questions when she talked with him (or Allison).
The brilliance of this novel, though, is that when Dani is introduced to normal human relationships and interactions, like Allison and Greg, she starts to separate from her mother and she starts to develop, not a exactly a personality, but a curiosity of something more than the life she's had with her mother. (view spoiler)[Eventually, it progressed to a point where she could actually leave her mother behind and move on to finding who she is and what she wants. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, I thought it was a great coming of age story and a great discovering-who-you-are book.
The only reason why this book isn't getting a higher star count is because I wouldn't read it again and it's not really my genre. Furthermore, I know that if I did read it again some of Dani's nuances would start getting to me, like her constant questioning and self-doubt. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>