Author: Amanda Searcy
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publishing Date: December 12, 2017
I received this novel from PageHabit’s YA Monthly subscription. Though this is a book I most likely would not have picked up on my own I am very glad that it found it’s way into my library. A beautiful novel encompassing a coming-of-age, and life’s consequences this novel took me by surprise!
Pros and Cons:
In a story, people are mostly driven forward by the plot, however, if a book has flat characters it isn’t uncommon that it’s dumped into the DNF pile. Though the characters in this book were NOT flat, I did struggle a lot with Betsy and Kayla. I’ll save that explanation for later in the review, though. Mark these two as both a pro and a con on your checklist.
One thing I noticed very early on in the novel was that Searcy really liked pointing out the dental hygiene of characters. Granted, Betsy and Kayla lived in a rough part of town full of druggies, and bad oral hygiene is usually a good sign of an addict, but it was still funny how often it came up in such a short time span. Her writing style left me highly confused initially, but I later realized this was done intentionally, and after about 100 pages you suddenly understand why.
I think one of my favorite parts of this book was that Searcy had me needing to know the truth’s behind these characters. Even in moments when I was irritated with Betsy and Kayla, where I hated them both equally, I pushed forward because I had an itch that needed to be scratched, questions that needed to be answered. I also greatly valued her ability to surprise me (as that’s a rare experience for me, especially in YA.) Searcy wrote a mystery novel with no potholes, that tied together more beautifully in the end than I could have ever hoped for.
Betsy Hopewell and Kayla Asher are our protagonists. One of the things that both of these girls share is that they were essentially raised in foster care due to a drug-addicted mother. They also share the same attitude and mindset that irritated me for most of the book. I am a huge supporter of women and their independence, however, with these girl’s I struggled with the constant “woe-is-me” response to them receiving help from loved ones. I understand that many people do not know how to receive gifts, and even commonly feel indebted to the gift giver. These girls, however, were just incapable of accepting a helping hand from anyone really, and eventually, this yearning for independence becomes an excuse for them to lash out at loved ones.
Even early on in the plot, Betsy admits to being a “selfish bitch.” When I initially read this I believed it was a character development tactic to show insecurity. Though in a way it was, I ultimately ended up agreeing with Betsy that she was a “selfish bitch.” Both Kayla and Betsy show little to no care for those that they hurt when they won’t accept help from those who can offer it. Everyone is depicted to have an ulterior motive and some of the nicest people in the plot are initially painted as wicked. I am very grateful that this eventually shifts, but considering this attitude remained constant for most of the book, it was highly irritating.
We also have Betsy and Kayla’s mom, who is “fragile,” considering she’s been clean for three years. Their mother is doing the best she can and in many ways is a wonderful mother – especially in the sense that she tries to reach her daughter(s) relentlessly, no matter how often she’s pushed away. I do wish that she had been portrayed a bit stronger throughout the book seeing how she’d somewhat conquered drug addiction. That’s not something that a “fragile” person is able to do and still remain fragile the entire time.
I think throughout the entire list of characters my favorite was Happy. Of course, emanating her name, she initially irked me, but the more we got to know her the more genuine I realized she was. She has her own story and background – her own emotions and baggage – but she’s beautiful and innocent. She wears her happiness like an armor and I found it admirable, to say the least.
I rated this novel PG-13 for the very few curse words included, and some of the content (as it discusses PTSD-like flashbacks of the trauma and death the girls have seen.) A coming-of-age mystery novel focused on the battle of fighting one’s self, and society; death, and overcoming the odds. In many aspects, this novel was a race against the clock and I thankfully never found myself yawning using the time as an excuse to put the book down. I was initially planning to rate this novel three stars as I struggled to enjoy the plot due to my anger towards the protagonists, however, as I gathered more information, and I stumbled across plot twists the book quickly shot itself up to five stars. If you’re able to withstand an initially ungrateful and whiny lead I believe this novel will be an easy and pleasurable read for you.