This one hit all of the high marks for me. I think that Dessen takes a really good look at grief and how hard it is to bounce back from a death. We have several teens in this book that had tragic things occur and I loved the different reactions by all of them. And I thought the ending, while showing how one can move on, didn't just slap a bow on things either.
Macy Queen is dealing with the death of her father. Her favorite person in the world dies before the start of this novel. Readers find out that Macy and her dad loved to go running together, and one day when she decided to sleep in rather than go with him, she finds him later on the ground having CPR administered to him. That moment and others haunts Macy. I maybe teared up a lot while reading this book. Probably because it hit close to home for me. Something similar happened to me in college with coming home to find ambulances surrounding my home and finding paramedics working on my father. My brother was upstairs hiding, and I was hit with the thought that my father was dead. You don't understand a world in which you exist and your parents no longer do. It feels just as backwards to us as it does to parents when they have to bury a child.
So believe me I got the character of Macy. You go from being in a fog and okay again so many times you don't know what to do with yourself. Macy who is dating the most terrible person ever named Jason (seriously he is the literature version of Ted Cruz) is doing what she can be to be perfect for her mom and Jason. She finds herself opening up a bit though when she gets interested in the catering family that comes to one of her mother's house selling events. Macy becomes intrigued by them and finds herself working for the catering crew because she finds them so loud and also just alive. The owner of the catering company, Delia made me laugh a lot. But I also loved brothers Bert and Wes (Delia's nephews) and sisters Kristy and Monica. There's a running gag that Monica doesn't really talk just mmmms and when she speaks in complete sentences at the end of the book I maybe fell over laughing my butt off.
All of the secondary characters felt very real to me. I get why Macy pulled away from her friends at school and quit the track team. You are just in self-protection mode there for a while. And we get to see how Macy's sister and her mother deal with their grief as well. What I thought was great though is that as Macy meets Kristy and Wes and becomes close to them, she starts to realize that other people have their own private griefs too, but they keep moving forward. I loved that part of it, because believe me for about two years I had my head up my ass regarding what a pain in the butt I was to my friends who kept reaching out.
Once again Dessen nails the dialogue with teens and adults. I didn't have an issue with flow in this one. I would say make sure you have a box of tissues nearby though. The scenes with Macy trying to hide her dad's stuff from her mother's trash purge, and her dream of trying to catch up to him had me sniffling.
Once again the book takes place in the town of Lakeview. I am wondering why this is not considered a series though? Lakeview in this one was a bit more interesting. We get to see Macy who is definitely on the right side of the tracks dealing with the stress caused by her mother who is trying to build up the community around them with designer townhouses. It felt a little more in sync with the world I was introduced to in "Lock and Key" and I enjoyed that.
The ending for this one definitely leaves you with hope for Macy and her family. You can tell they are not 100 percent healed (you never are really) but you can see them starting to come out on the other side.