Monday, June 29, 2015
Info: Viking Juvenile, copyright 2015, 417 pages
Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
I firmly believe that Sarah Dessen should release a book every summer. While I know that that is unreasonable, her books just put me in the summer mood...even when they are set in other seasons...which doesn't happen often, but it happens. It just so happens that I read this gem on a Carolina beach in one day because that's just how I read Sarah Dessen. This is all coming around to the fact that I love Sarah Dessen, and after years of dreaming about one day meeting her, I have now met her twice. She is a joy. A kind, thoughtful, southern joy.
Oddly, this story is not set at the beach. Which was okay. Instead there was a mysterious carousel hidden deep in the woods which is just as cool as a tiny beach town. Sydney is invisible. Or least she thinks she is compared to her older, charismatic brother who has a penchant for trouble. When his latest night of debauchery lands him in jail, Sydney decides to start fresh at a new school, far away from the legacy her brother left in his wake.
And for the first time, Sydney discovers a family of friends who see her, and appreciate her, for exactly who she is. She is a strong, funny, intelligent girl who shines brighter than she ever though possible. To top off this wonderful story is the adorable pizza parlor that I now want to visit desperately. A pizza parlor where they only play bluegrass. Heaven I tell you, heaven.
Sarah Dessen is a storyteller. Her books are sweet and complicated. Messy and hopefully. Heartwarming and heart wrenching. As well as she writes romances, it's the friendships she gets right. Here's to fierce female characters who aren't jealous or spiteful. They're just friends, loyal to the end and willing to lay in front of your bedroom door all through the night to make sure your brother's creepy friend from rehab doesn't try anything. There are girls who put themselves out there and boys who are perfect but are good and kind.