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Don't Fail Me Now

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  770 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Michelleand her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them.

Leahand her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getti
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Razorbill
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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  770 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-books
I was rooting for this book. But, in the end, I had one big problem and a bunch of small ones.

I may have to spoil some stuff in order to talk about this. So, yeah, Here Be Spoilers.

First, the stuff I like: love-makes-a-family theme, biracial protagonist, road trip, and both addiction and social class dealt with in an authentic, thoughtful way. And I LOVED the shaggy-dog ending. It's rare that a book has the courage to deny its protagonists the reconciliation with the piece of shit estranged par
May 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle-reads, 2017, ya
Usually for road trip novels it's a hit or miss with me- actually to be completely honest, I'd forgotten I had checked this out until I saw it was the last day on my Overdrive rental. Better late than never, I supposed. As soon as I started, DON'T FAIL ME NOW consumed me. I loved Michelle's voice even if at times I thought she made an unjustly assumption. Cass & Denny made for a sweet addition of siblings & I felt the novel took a unique twist. The circumstances were predictable, but the outcome ...more
Sooooo I finally finished this book. It took forever because I was listening to it on audiobook in the car and my commute to work is no longer as long as it was before I moved. The premise for this book was good; however, I think that Una LaMarche didn't deliver the way that I expected. I didn't think that the romance was necessary and I also felt as though she spend to long dragging out certain sections of the book. I'll be discussing more of my issues with the book in my review. It was just an ...more
Lisa (lifeinlit)
May 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, audiobook
Michelle, Cass and Denny find themselves in a sticky situation when their mother ends up in prison. The three of them are placed in a home where they are less than welcome, given many rules, and are even forced to pay rent. When Michelle learns that their biological father, who left them at a very young age, is dying, she takes it upon herself to contact their half-sister, Leah, who she’s never met. Together, along with Leah’s stepbrother, Tim, the group decides to take a cross-country road trip ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
All of Una LaMarche’s books just got audiobook versions in September, coinciding with the release of Don’t Fail Me Now. I’d been curious about LaMarche’s books, but, since I didn’t have review copies, I’d not gotten around to trying any of them yet; I realize how pompous that sounds but my schedule is my schedule. As such, I was thrilled when they showed up in the Penguin Random House audiobook emails. First, I listened to Like No Other, which surprised me with its sweetness and intensity. Havin ...more
The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori)
Full Review on The Candid Cover

A realistic road trip book with a unique twist. Readers will be both inspired and moved by this novel. Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche has a perfect mix with its gripping plot line, plucky protagonist and so much diversity.

The most fantastic thing about Don’t Fail Me Now is its plot. This is such an amazing road trip novel that follows Michelle, who meets her stepsister for the first time and learns that their father is dying. With very little cash and a beat-up
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Trigger Warning: various slurs (ableism, homophobia, misogyny).

The Adventures in Babysitting meets Shameless. The romantic road trip adventure for poor girls of color with daddy issue.

It was a cute bit of contemporary ya with a nice romantic subplot. What I liked was how it's told from the perspective of a biracial black girl living below the poverty line. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a young teen (13-14). Sweet, funny, hopeful, but grounded enough to feel fairly realistic.

Stefani Sloma
Don’t Fail Me Now is a unique, diverse, moving road-trip novel chock full of interesting characters and all the feels. Forced into a terrible situation by their absentee mother, Michelle, Cass, and Denny (three African American children surviving on Michelle’s part time job at Taco Bell) join forces with their newly found half-sister Leah and her stepbrother Tim (white, middle-class, and taken care of) on a cross-country road trip to meet Buck, their dying father who left them years ago. Nothing ...more
Book Riot Community
LaMarche, author of the super-great memoir Unabrow, returns with a young adult novel about teens living in Maryland. Michelle and Leah must overlook their different racial and economic backgrounds to come together over the thing they have in common: their father, Buck, who is dying. LaMarche writes a compassionate story of forgiveness and how privilege divides even those related by blood.

Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books:
joey (thoughts and afterthoughts)
[See the full review at thoughts and afterthoughts.]

Rating: 2.5/5
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– A road-trip book brimming with intersectionality/diversity
– Slow-paced writing and feeling of being disengaged from the cast and their conflict made the experience a bit of a drag
– Romance in this book is off-center of incest (not actually…but the half-sister’s brother is the interest)
– Raises awareness to racial discrimination and microaggressions, economic disparity, gender r
Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I got for review via Amazon Vine.

Diversity Rating: 5 – Diverse as Fuck

5 (Michelle, Cass, and Denny are black/biracial; Leah and Tim are white and Michelle regularly makes them confront their privilege)
QUILTBAG: 3 (Cass is a lesbian)
Disability: 4 (Cass is diabetic, Denny probably has an undiagnosed behavior disorder)
Intersectionality: 5 (Michelle, Cass, and Denny live in poverty/semi-poverty and there are many other inters
Don’t Fail Me Now is about Michelle Devereux, Michelle takes care of her two younger siblings more than their mother who happens to be a single mother and a recovering addict. Their father, Buck left them when Michelle was around six, Cass a baby and their brother, Denny not even born. Michelle lives in urban Baltimore and works at a Taco Bell after school to help with bills and for when she needs to bail her mother out.

Buck’s obviously not father of the year and when he left Michelle’s family,
Rebecca McNutt
Most YA romance novels feature well-off suburban melodramatic teenagers as the main characters. Don't Fail Me Now is much more honest than that and the characters are easier to understand. On the brink of welfare, Michelle and her siblings rely on the small amount of money that their mom makes working at Taco Bell. Making ends meet isn't easy, but then she meets someone who'll listen.
This is a mixed bag of a book. It's engaging with an outstanding voice in Michelle. LaMarche does a great job of offering a black girl growing up in a broken home, with a substance abusing mother, with little income, two siblings, and few opportunities for success. More, there were moments when I utterly related to Michelle and the serious thoughts and struggles she had about learning she could meet her stepsister -- the child born by a woman her father cheated on her mother for -- since this is ...more
❤:.   . • ○ ° Zatarra Reads . . • ○ ° ❤
Thanks First-to-Read for this advanced readers copy of this lovely book Don't Fail Me Now, written by Una LaMarche. In exchange for this copy, I have promised a honest review.

Don't' Fail Me Now tells the story of three near homeless kids who are struggling to find normalcy in the grimy streets of Baltimore. With a mom who is struggling to over come addiction, a father who is long gone, and a money hungry auntie, Michelle (the oldest) is forced to play the parent for herself & two younger sibling
Jessica (The Psychotic Nerd)
This and other reviews can be found on The Psychotic Nerd


I kind of picked up this book without even knowing what it was about. It ended up being a road trip book, which I actually love! This book, though, is more serious than more road trip books, which makes so much sense considering the subject matter. This book was still very enjoyable and I actually ended up liking this book.

Michelle lives in poverty with her siblings and single mom, who happens to do drugs.
Unknown poet (Anna)
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A real lovely book about a real-world issue. Amazing writing.
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poc
Don't Fail Me Now was so cute and definitely not what I was expecting.
GOOD stuff:
• Michelle sounded like an actual smart & funny teen, instead of a middle-aged author's version of it.
• Mistakes were made by aforementioned protagonist, and she learned from them and admitted she was wrong.
• Although the author is white, she talked about systematic racism! Was definitely NOT expecting that after seeing her portrait on the back flap.
• The main characters were complex.
NOT-GOOD stuff:
• There is some
In just short of 300 pages, Una LaMarche manages to beautifully create a book filled with diversity, complex characters, witty dialogue, and a bittersweet story that will leave you turning page after page. I really loved Don’t Fail Me Now, and I had a hard time putting it down.

Don’t let the cover or blurb fool you; this isn’t nearly as much as a lighthearted book as its made out to be. Sure, there were some fun moments here and there, but for the most part the story was pretty serious. Michelle
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katrina Burchett
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, amazon-vine
Seventeen-year-old Michelle Devereux has been more like a mother to her thirteen-year-old sister, Cass, and six-year-old brother, Denny. She and Cass have the same father, but they haven't seen him in years. They also have a half-sister, Leah. They've never met her. Not until they find out their father is sick and they all, along with Leah's stepbrother, take a road trip from Baltimore to California.

Michelle and company were heading to a destination, but it seemed more like they were runaways, o
Rachel Svendsen
Aug 05, 2015 rated it liked it
At first I was excited about a book that promised to address important issues of race and class privilege, but I was a little disappointed in the execution. It began well, but I found the characters somewhat flat, which I think reduced the discussion of hot issues from poignant to cliche. I hoped for more than that. The romance also lacked chemistry for me and the ending was unrealistically happily ever after, especially considering the author's emphasis on her character's emotional baggage whic ...more
Carolyn Elaine
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Michelle's mother gets thrown in jail...again. Her aunt is wanting her to pay $300 dollars just so Michelle and her younger siblings can have a place to stay. Not to mention, her deadbeat father left her family when she was 7 to go live with his secret family. Everything in Michelle's life has gone wrong, and she doesn't know how to fix it. All of a sudden, one night, a boy (Tim) comes and tells her that her father is dying and her long lost sister wants to meet her. Michell
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a typical YA novel that focuses on identity, family, and relationships. The plot moves, but unfortunately, I found it to often be boring and lacking innovative prose. The characters lacked depth, and I thought the author could have dug much deeper into the idea of white privilege. She told us that it existed, but didn't let us feel the race issues rise within the story. The relationships between the siblings and the romantic relationships also weren't as fleshed out as they could have be ...more
May 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I got an advanced readers copy of this book from the rt book convention in Dallas. I was partially disappointed at the ending but also thought it was a good way to end everything. Overall I definitely enjoyed this book!
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a smooth and entertaining read with a diverse mix of characters, most of whom act very believably the entire time. It's part road trip, part coming of age, part romance, part coping with death, and the list goes on. I enjoyed it much more than I expected.
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a great book about family and race and class and just pulling together to survive despite the crap that life hands you. Michelle is such a memorable character, and even though she's fictional, I really hope things work out for her after the ending of the book.
Alyssa Stager
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
a low 4! i read it v fast and i like the concept of the story. if the ending was a bit different it’d be a cute movie
Aug 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Michelle Deveraux, the unsung hero of DON’T FAIL ME NOW, has grit. And tenacity. And a resilience like no one I’ve ever met before, fictional or otherwise. Unfortunately, when we’re first introduced to Michelle, life just seems to be beating her up, one punch at a time. The last thing she needs is a half-sister from the other side of the tracks coming in search of her for a quest to find their shared dead beat dad, the very catalyst of her problems. There’s a chance, though, that this road trip ...more
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Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche was absolutely fantastic! Add this book to your TBR list immediately!! I’ve been reading my fair share of YA books this season and hadn’t really enjoyed any of them to the point that I was beginning to think that I’d gotten too old and jaded to connect with the storylines. However, Don’t Fail Me Now proved my hypothesis completely wrong! This book is going to be a lot of things for a lot of people, but I’ll s
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Una LaMarche is a writer and amateur Melrose Place historian who lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, her son, and her hoard of vintage Sassy magazines. Una used to be a fancy magazine and newspaper editor before she had a baby and started writing from home, sometimes pantsless, for a living. Her first novel, Five Summers, is being released from Razorbill in May, and she’s currently in de ...more

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