I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Guy/Girl Next Door square.
Though I really did enjoy 2 out of the 3 Dessen books I reviewed yesterday, this one fell very short. It has classic Dessen moments (or what I consider classic). However, the flow of this book was pretty bad. It took me a while to get through it, and I am not going to lie, I started skimming a bit last night because I was seriously bored the whole time. I think the main issue was that I was not engaged with Mclean's love interest (Dave) at all. He was just odd and lacking in so many ways. I actually did like Mclean's father a lot, but her mother was problematic for me through the whole book. I feel like there was a side plot or something that should have been included to explain her perspective more. But honestly, she acted childish throughout and I ended up disliking her until pretty much the end. The secondary characters unfortunately really don't shine at all in this one, and in her other books "Saint Anything" and "The Truth About Forever" I found the the secondary characters to be very developed.
The main character is Mclean. She is starting her senior year and dealing with being the new girl in town again. We quickly find out that Mclean lives with her father, whose job as a consultant for a huge restaurant corporation means that he is constantly moving around in order to fix or recommend closure for some restaurants. Mclean and her father have come to Lakeview, and she hopes they will stay long enough for her to enjoy her senior year. The biggest pain in Mclean's life though, is that she feels lost and doesn't know who she is anymore after her parents divorce. And we readers find out that this was a highly contentious divorce due to the fact that Mclean's mother cheated on her father (with a man that her and her father saw as a hero) and quickly got pregnant. I don't really know what to say about Mclean though. She definitely gets food and her and her father have a close relationship. But I never felt like I got what made her tick really. She's obviously still upset by her mother tearing their family apart. And we know that Mclean chose and fought to stay with her father though her mother is angry about that. They have a blow up fight about halfway through the book, though Mclean is forced to capitulate to her mother or risk dealing with another court case to decide custody.
Secondary characters just felt too one dimensional for me to get an opinion on. Mclean's dad at times seemed super wonderful, and then he would turn and be uncompromising. I don't know if that was Dessen's way of trying to show a bit of maybe what caused Mclean's mother to cheat or not. Since the character of Mclean didn't seem to mind I just didn't know how I was supposed to feel as a reader.
Mclean's mother was terrible. I really hate to read about cheating in romance novels anyway, but the woman acting like a spoiled brat through the whole book with her 180 in the end didn't feel believable at all. You get that Mclean feels distant from her mother because it feels like she has created a whole new life and she wants her daughter there as well. But, she also doesn't want to own what she did. And there was some sub-text there that Mclean's mother and stepfather had some weirdness going on. Since Dessen doesn't revisit characters in her books that I know of right now, this just ended up making the reading feel more muddled. I honestly didn't get that Mclean's mother loved her, she just wanted her in her new life and wanted things to be like they were. Obviously that can't happen, hey you cheat, people tend to have feelings about it.
And since the situation with the cheating and subsequent divorce was so messy, you think that Mclean's mom would have some shame about it, but not at all. Eh. I don't know what to say, you don't want to be totally hard and not forgive, but I also would have dug a grave and put my husband in it (alive) if I found out that he cheated on me and was all laters baby I have an amazing new life.
Yeah, I hate this phrase so much now.
Note: I am not married, do not be concerned for this mythical husband. I repeat, I am not married.
Other characters like Opal and Dave just read like cliches to me the whole way through. I honestly didn't even get why Mclean was even talking to Dave at all or bringing him with her when she goes to watch a basketball game with her mother (something that the family used to love to do together) since he was honestly just the boy that lived next door to her and her dad.
Usually Dessen's books have a more meaty plot to me. This one just flailed a bit too much for me. I also think Dessen rushed things a bit in the beginning of the book and then slowed down way too much. The flow was all over the place and the time periods kept jumping back and forth too much.
By the time we get to the ending, I had a sense of whiplash and we had some hastily thrown together information regarding where everyone was now (and happily I might add) that once again didn't feel realistic. Everything just didn't fit. And since I thought wet noodles are more romantic than Dave and Mclean were supposed to be, her whole well maybe one day I will just follow him around thing just gave me a hard pause.