Interview with Jenna Rutland, Author of Just for the Summer

Please give a warm welcome to special guest Jenna Rutland!  She dropped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and to chat about her new book Just for the Summer.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jenna Rutland] Happy, likes to laugh, okay sense of humor, enjoys cooking for family, loves being a grandmother.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Just for the Summer?

[Jenna Rutland] Dani Sullivan has come to Lake Bliss to write her latest cookbook and take a breather. After the year she’s had, she deserves a summer retreat to reevaluate priorities and make peace with past decisions. But from the moment single dad and sheriff Matt Reagan shows up, she has a hard time convincing herself that a life away from Lake Bliss could beat the life she might have here.

Recently divorced Matt is ready for a new relationship, but he doesn’t want short-term—his son needs permanence, and so does Matt’s heart. Unfortunately, it’s the smart-mouthed and sinfully sexy Ms. Sullivan who catches his eye. But when Matt learns Dani’s secrets, will he still want her to stay? Or will her chance for love last just for the summer?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jenna Rutland] It was just a snippet of a thought about a woman who gave up her child for adoption, but yearned to see him, then realizing that the adoptive father was single.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Dani?

[Jenna Rutland] Loving, funny, sweet.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Dani is never without?

[Jenna Rutland] Her love for her son, Sam.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Matt’s bedroom?

[Jenna Rutland] A TV, scratchy sheets, towels on the floor.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Dani’s greatest regret?

[Jenna Rutland] That her mother never got to see an eight-year-old Sam.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jenna Rutland] Writing – Rachel Gibson

Cooking – My mother

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jenna Rutland] Big glass of Diet Pepsi, quietness, comfy chair.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Jenna Rutland] I loved reading Erin McCarthy’s, Flat-out Sexy.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Jenna Rutland] It was so far back that I can’t honestly remember. My mother taught me to read at age five.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Jenna Rutland] Cook, garden, read, spend time with my family, and spoil my granddaughter.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Jenna Rutland] I love talking with readers. You can connect with me here:

Email me at jennarutland@gmail.com

Write to me at Jenna Rutland, P.O. Box 116, Lambertville, MI 48144

Twitter me at https://twitter.com/JennaRutland

Facebook me at http://www.facebook.com/jennarutland

Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17562039-just-for-the-summer

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!

You can purchase Just For the Summer from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the link below:

 

About the book:

Dani Sullivan has come to Lake Bliss to write her latest cookbook and take a breather. After the year she’s had, she deserves a summer retreat to reevaluate priorities and make peace with past decisions. But from the moment single dad and sheriff Matt Reagan shows up, she has a hard time convincing herself that a life away from Lake Bliss could beat the life she might have here.

Recently divorced Matt is ready for a new relationship, but he doesn’t want short-term—his son needs permanence, and so does Matt’s heart. Unfortunately, it’s the smart-mouthed and sinfully sexy Ms. Sullivan who catches his eye. But when Matt learns Dani’s secrets, will he still want her to stay? Or will her chance for love last just for the summer?

Cover Shot! If I Fall by Anna Cruise

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I love the colors on this cover for If I Fall by Anna Cruise.  Very pretty!

In stores April 2013

 

Meg Calloway is at the edge.

Reeling from her parents’ sudden divorce, fifteen-year old Meg has never felt more alone. Her father is about to marry a woman she can’t stand and her mother’s only companion is an endless supply of alcohol. When Aidan Westwood, an older boy at school, shows interest in her, she grabs on and doesn’t let go, thinking he’s exactly what she needs to help stem her loneliness and despair. She quickly learns that Aidan lives a darker, more dangerous life than she does and the more isolated she feels from her family, the more willing she is to step into Aidan’s world.

As Meg drifts further from her friends, she tries to find comfort with a boy who is opening her eyes up to new things, none of them good. Will she listen to those around her who are warning her that she’s headed down a path of self-destruction?

Or will she fall too far…too fast…too deep?

Review: Me, Him, Them, & It by Caela Carter

 

Title: Me, Him, Them, and It

Author:  Caela Carter

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

ME is Evelyn Jones, 16, a valedictorian hopeful who’s been playing bad girl to piss off THEM, her cold, distant parents. HIM is Todd, Evelyn’s secret un-boyfriend, who she thought she was just using for sex – until she accidentally fell in love with him. But before Evelyn gets a chance to tell Todd how she feels, something much more important comes up. IT. IT is a fetus. Evelyn is pregnant – and when Todd turns his back on her, Evelyn has no idea who to turn to. Can a cheating father, a stiff, cold mother, a pissed-off BFF, and a (thankfully!) loving aunt with adopted girls of her own help Evelyn make the heart-wrenching decisions that follow?


Review:

Wow, at times Me, Him, Them, And It is a hard book to read.  Evelyn is a self-destructive teen, who is crying out for attention from her parents.  Because her home life is so dysfunctional, nothing she does makes them bat an eye.  Her mother is emotionally stunted, unable to communicate her feelings, and her father has been caught cheating, so he is struggling with guilt.  He leaves for a time, but then comes back home, and everything is changed.  The house is silent, nobody talks, and Evelyn is spiraling in a black depression she can’t escape.  She is like her mother; unable to adequately communicate her feelings, even to her best friend.  The words she longs to speak stick in her throat, trapped and suffocating her.  There are times I was so frustrated with her, because if she would only SAY something, anything, she wouldn’t have to feel as though she’s carrying the burden of the world on her shoulders.

Evelyn has set a high bar for herself.  She wants to be the class valedictorian, and  she wants to attend an Ivy League university.  It is so sad that neither of her parents has any clue how well she’s doing in school, or what her college ambitions are.  Then she decides to punish her parents.  She doesn’t want to be Good Evelyn anymore, and who can blame her.  She received no credit at all from her distant parents, and she desperately wants their attention.  Any kind of attention.  The sad thing is, even as she begins indulging in dangerous behavior, they still don’t acknowledge her desperate cries for help.  Then she discovers that the risks she has been taking have come home to roost.  She’s pregnant, and she doesn’t know what to do.

This book is all about consequences.  Evelyn has made a mistake, and now she has to face it.  She has to decide what to do about the bean growing in her belly. Todd, the father, turns his back on her, and no matter how hard she tries, she just can’t tell her BFF what’s wrong with her.  The only compassionate adult in her life is Mary, a counselor at the local planned parenthood.  Because she can’t have a discussion with her mother, Evelyn makes Mary tell her mom that she’s pregnant.  Ouch!

I didn’t want to like any of the characters in this book.  Everyone is so absorbed in their own drama and agendas that nobody seems to care about anybody else.  Evelyn irritated me at times, but then I stopped and realized that there were so many grown up decisions that she had to make, without much input from the adults in her life, and that she had every reason to be confused, angry, and hurt.  Overwhelmed.  Few of the adults in her life gave her any credit, yet they all demanded that she make a plan. Now.   It’s not even like she had a good example of what a real family should be like to base her decisions on.

When she’s sent to live with her Aunt Linda and her family in Chicago, Evelyn is understandably upset.  In her hour of need, her parents send her away.  Once she falls into a routine at Linda’s, though, she does start to feel like she belongs.  She slowly begins to learn how to express herself, though it is a painful and awkward process.  And just when I think she is beginning to heal, and she will make a rational decision about what to do about the bean that she blames for ruining her life, she makes yet another impulsive, life altering choice.  While the ending is upbeat, Me, Him, Them, and It had me feeling a bit out of sorts.  The magnitude of Evelyn’s problem is staggering and her rage at her parents is all-consuming.  The choice she must make will alter the lives of almost everyone she knows, and yet all of them leave her to make it on her own.  The thought of an angry, resentful, and scared teen making of decision like this on her own just left me depressed.

Grade:  B/B+

Check back later today for a chance to win a copy of Me, Him, Them, and It!

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton

 

Title: Blaze

Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She’s desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark’s feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now…


Review:

I have mixed feelings about Blaze.  I loved the protagonist’s voice, but, man, could Blaze do some stupid things.  She frustrated me several times during the narrative, because she was smarter than she acted.  She is so desperate to escape her boring soccer mom life that she builds up a non-existent romance with her brother’s soccer coach.  The reality of their relationship is much more shallow; they have a hookup  in the back of Blaze’s van, and once that’s over, Mark’s interest in Blaze is extinguished.

Blaze is the rock of her family.  Her father has abandoned them to pursue an acting career in New York and her mother works long hours as a nurse, so Blaze is the primary caregiver  for her younger brother Josh.  She shuttles him and his friends back forth to soccer games, attempts to cook, and takes care of most of the household chores.  She has two close friends, and not much of a social life.  And a boyfriend?  Nope, her love life is sadly lacking.  

Then one fateful day, Mark, Josh’s soccer coach, asks for a ride home.  Blaze has been lusting after Mark from afar all season, and she can’t believe that he’s going to be sitting in her car!  Wait, no, her vehicle is the color of crap and it smells like stinky boys.  Ugh! Still, she’s not going to let this opportunity go to waste.  Awkwardly flirting with him, she is quickly smitten.  He’s hot, after all.  Mark even makes her laugh and good-naturedly goes along with the silly games she and her young charges play to pass the time during the long drives rides to the soccer games. 

After giving him a few more rides to games, Blaze has built up their relationship in her mind, and she starts to think that it’s a lot more than it really is.  This frustrated me, because she is not a stupid girl.  She is an intelligent young woman with hopes and dreams who can debate the nuances of the  Marvel Universe with the best of them, but because her family is so dysfunctional, she is looking for something to break the monotony of her rural life.  There has to be something more than being invisible and going to school, and with Mark’s help she’s going to find out what it is.

It’s obvious to the reader that Mark is all wrong for her and that Blaze is in for nothing but heartache.  He’s a class A jerk, and I wanted to shake some common sense into her every time Blaze obsessed about the lack of communication from him.  When they are together, it’s like they aren’t even speaking the same language.  When Mark does her wrong, and Blaze strikes back at him, her life is torn to shreds when he reposts a picture of her that her friend texted to him.  Let’s just say that the fallout makes being a boring soccer mom stand-in seem like the best job in the world.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, with a few reservations.  Blaze is a comic nerd, more specifically, a Marvel comic nerd, and there is a lot of comic chatter going on in her head.  An aspiring comic creator herself, she thinks, eats, and breathe comics.  Because I am a comic geek, too, and I’m familiar with the Marvel Universe (and even the Superman issue that she disses), I felt right at home here.  If you don’t like comics, have never heard of Comicon, and can’t imagine hanging out in a comic shop, you might be a little bored here.

The other thing that irritated me and made me want to fling the book at the nearest wall was the hookup scene with Blaze and Mark.  Blaze, as I have already stated, seems like a smart girl.  She should know that having unprotected sex can lead to pregnancy or a life-threatening disease.  She hardly knows Mark.  By this time in the story, I thought he had proven himself to be a stuck-up, self-centered dirtbag, but my opinion of him certainly does not matter.  Nary a protest is made about the lack of a condom, and in this day and age, that’s inexcusable.  I don’t care how old you are or how badly you want to keep your boyfriend happy.  Ugh!!

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Laurie Boyle Crompton, Author of Blaze

Laurie Boyle Crompton is visiting the virtual offices today to chat about her new release BLAZE.  Please give her a warm welcome!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Blaze?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Blaze is a seventeen-year-old comic geek who is sort of stuck in her life driving her younger brother and his friends around in her turd-brown minivan (AKA: The Subatomic Sweatmobile of Doom). She loves drawing comics and is determined to snag her crush but when she does things don’t really go as planned.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] My step-dad has an amazing collection of vintage comics that I had the privilege of reading through as a teen. I became an instant comic geek girl and this was before a lot of the superhero movies came out so there was zero cool factor to my obsession. Besides loving comics in general, I loved the way reading them made me believe in a greater truth. When people weren’t exactly being kind to me it was nice to read about a world where the good guys always come out on top.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Blaze?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Talented Kickass Geek

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Blaze’s locker?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] A notebook that’s not covered in doodles.

A boy band poster.

A vanity mirror.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Vintage superhero comics were a huge influence in writing this book. It was really a fantastic experience to be reading through all these old issues and seeing the ways that Blaze was inspired by the various characters. It was like I was experiencing the comics through her eyes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Time, time, time! I would do it every second of every day if I could, but of course there are basic day-to-day things that need to be taken care of. Thankfully, some of the things I DON’T need in order to write include; clean laundry, home-cooked meals, scrubbed bathrooms and clean floors. When I’m on deadline none of that stuff happens.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] I recently read THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER because I wanted to read it before I saw the movie. I know that if I see a movie the odds go down that I will go back and pick up the book (exceptions abound, including WHIP IT by Shauna Cross which was awesome). I’m so glad I did read PERKS first, although I suspect I would’ve picked up the book afterwards anyway.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] I love to be outdoors. Hiking, biking, cross-country skiing – anything that gets me moving through nature. I’m a movie fanatic and also enjoy going for long rides in our Jeep with the top down. The perfect combination of these two is when we take the Jeep to the drive-in during the summer. *sigh* *thinks longingly of summer*

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Laurie Boyle Crompton] Twitter https://twitter.com/lbcrompton

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/laurie.b.crompton

Website http://lboylecrompton.com/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13345957-blaze

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Blaze from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She’s desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark’s feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now…

Review: Peanut by Ayun Halliday & Paul Hoppe

 

 

Title: Peanut

Author: Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

"Before you write me off as a delusional psycho, think about what it’s like to be thrown into a situation where everyone knows everyone . . . and no one knows you." Sadie has the perfect plan to snag some friends when she transfers to Plainfield High—pretend to have a peanut allergy. But what happens when you have to hand in that student health form your unsuspecting mom was supposed to fill out? And what if your new friends want to come over and your mom serves them snacks? (Peanut butter sandwich, anyone?) And then there’s the bake sale, when your teacher thinks you ate a brownie with peanuts. Graphic coming-of-age novels have huge cross-over potential, and Peanut is sure to appeal to adults and teens alike.


Review:

When I received this book, I was a bit mystified.  Why, oh why would anyone pretend to have a fatal peanut allergy?  Baffled, I dug right into this graphic novel, intrigued to see if there was a compelling reason for Sadie to fabricate such a serious health issue.  After finishing the book, I have to say that I didn’t find it.  While the characters are likable, the rationale behind Sadie’s pretend illness just didn’t cut it for me.  Sadie’s little white lie, which quickly spirals out of control, is spun in an effort to be more popular at her new school. 

After talking to a girl about her medical alert bracelet, Sadie is so fascinated by the thought of having a severe peanut allergy that she orders a bracelet of her own.  I wanted to question how she was able to accomplish this, online, without a credit card or her mother’s knowledge, but I didn’t.  I just followed along with Sadie as she experiences the unintended consequences of her little lie.  A concerned teacher has her freaked out because she hasn’t turned in a health form, signed by her mother,  to the school nurse, and that EpiPen that she’s supposed to carry with her at all times?  Yeah, she needs a prescription to have access to that prop.  When a new friend asks to see it, she flips out on him.  When her new boyfriend thinks that she’s eaten a chip cooked in peanut oil, she realizes that living with this lie isn’t going to be easy.

The thing that kept me engaged in the story was Sadie’s fear of discovery.  Afraid to fess up to her new friends, she just keeps digging herself into a deeper and deeper hole.  She is terrified that the truth will come out, and when it does, that she will lose all of the friends that she’s made.  When reality does come crashing down around her, it is every bit as awful as she feared.  I think that the fallout was shortchanged, and that mending her bridges went too easy for her.  From her first day of school, the image of herself that she projected was all based on fallacy, and the small amount of page time given for her repentance was disappointing.

The art is quirky and it works well with the tone of the story.  I loved the splash of color from Sadie’s clothes. 

Grade:  C+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

 

Title:  Smashed

Author:  Lisa Luedeke

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A field hockey star grapples with addiction in this riveting debut that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

     Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.

 


Review:

I am not going to lie.  Parts of Smashed left me angry and frustrated.  It’s a hard book to put down, because Katie’s life is such a train wreck.  While I found it engrossing, I am torn about it.  I wanted to like Katie more than I did, but there are many times throughout the narrative that she is unlikable, and hard to relate to. She is struggling with her father’s rejection of her family, and when Alec is nice to her, she ignores her reservations about him and starts falling for him.  With a distant, distracted mother who is never there for her, she craves what Alec is giving her; attention and kindness.  When he shows a darker side, she is frightened, but when he apologizes for his abusive behavior, she forgives him, and puts herself  at risk again.  Katie doesn’t trust adults, and frankly, who can blame her after taking a long, hard look at her parents, so she instead tries to deal with all of her problems by herself.  She doesn’t even confide in her closest friends that she is in over her head with Alec.   Instead, she decides to deal with him herself, but her way of dealing with him can only have one outcome, and it isn’t a pretty one. 

Alec and his friends are the kings of her school, and they have a reputation for being bullies and getting away with crap.  When their paths start crossing during the summer, Katie starts to think that she’s been wrong about him.  He’s attentive and kind, and he’s there to listen as she vents about her family.  Sure, a couple of things don’t add up, and he gets aggressive about a physical relationship, but Katie convinces herself that she’s sending him the wrong signals.  She just wants to be friends.  But the more she pushes him away, the harder he pushes back, until he has her scared and wary of him.  When a drunk driving accident almost kills them both, Katie has to live the consequences of a very bad decision.  In the months that follow, she puts her dream of playing field hockey in college, a scholarship, and even her life in danger. 

I was so upset with some of the choices that Katie made.  There is pressure on her and her teammates to not get caught partying during the season, or they will be kicked off the team.  Instead of drinking publically, Katie starts drinking at home.  Her mother is never there, so it’s not like anyone is going to know or care.  Her mother is more focused on her job and finding a boyfriend to be there for Katie and her younger brother.   Without positive role models, Katie is struggling to find her place and struggling to deal with the challenges she is facing.  I kept wondering if and when her mother would take a step back from her own life and take an interest in her children’s.  I also felt horribly sad that Katie felt so abandoned and alone.  She feels that she has no one, so she starts drinking to forget all of her problems.

I don’t feel that Alec’s personality was developed enough, and I was disappointed at Alec’s lack of depth. I never felt that I got to know him or understand him. He’s just a one-dimensional jerk whose only purpose in the story is to propel Katie down a path of self-destruction. 

If you enjoy contemporary fiction that deal with social issues, I think you will enjoy Smashed.  It is a compelling and hard to put down read, and even though I didn’t always like Katie, I always sympathized with her.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez

 

Title:  The Space Between Us

Author:  Jessica Martinez

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

From the author of Virtuosity, a novel about two sisters and the secrets they tell, the secrets they keep—and the secret that could tear them apart.

Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.

     Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.


Contains spoilers!

Review:

Oh. My. GOD!  That is the only way I know how to express myself after reading The Space Between Us.  The book was not what I was expecting.  At all.  From the first page, I couldn’t put it down.  I kept hoping the puppies would go to sleep so I could read without all of their little distractions (like trying to chew on my rugs, dragging boots around the house, and wrestling over the millions of toys they have to play with!).  This is an emotional read, and the drama is built up entirely around Amelia’s feelings for her youngest sister Charly.  There were plenty of times when I didn’t like Amelia, but I always understood her.  She is enraged that Charly has completely derailed her carefully planned out life, and she can’t find it in herself to forgive her.  But even as she can’t forgive her, she wishes that life would go back to normal, that she and Charly could once again share that easy relationship that they once had.  Her resentment keeps getting in the way, though, and just keeps pushing them further apart.

Amelia has one goal in life – to go to Columbia.  Her entire school life so far has been dedicated to this goal.  She has exceled in her classes, studied her heart out, and always been the good girl.  Charly, on the other hand, is her exact opposite.  Fun loving, bubbly, outgoing, Charly thinks that life’s a game to be played all out.  Everyone loves her, and though she gets into a ton of trouble, her antics have been harmless.  Amelia is resigned that she will be bailing her out of one scrape after another, but with Charly’s unpredictable streak, at least life is never boring.  Until she starts hanging out with a bunch of losers, and she winds up pregnant.

Now, not being overly religious and not living in a small town, I didn’t sympathize with Amelia and her grandmother’s reaction to Charly’s condition.  Not even having a pastor father, who is a distracted and distant caregiver at best, could excuse their behavior and how they treated Charly like a tramp.  She’s pregnant, not a criminal!  She’s scared, suddenly alienated from her own family, and has no one to confide in.  The girls’ stern grandmother has decided that they will keep Charly’s pregnancy a secret from everyone, including their father.  They will both be shipped of to their aunt’s house in Canada, where Charly will take online courses for the rest of the year, and Amelia will be enrolled in the local high school.  Really?!  Sending them off to a relative they don’t know and  have only met once, at their mother’s funeral when they were babies, is the answer to Charly’s problem?  I hated their grandmother, I hated their clueless father, and I even hated Amelia for part of the book.  Everyone in her immediate family turned their back on her when Charly needed them the most, and I had a hard time forgiving them. 

Amelia is infuriated that she is being shipped off to the frozen north.  She wants nothing more than to finish out her senior year at her Florida high school, and then she’ll be free!  It’s off to Columbia for her!  Freedom from Charly and her shenanigans, freedom from gossip, freedom from always having to be the good girl.  Argh!  Amelia does not make a good impression on anyone once she gets to her aunt’s house, and she sees nothing wrong with her rotten behavior.  She takes her rage out on everyone.  I could understand how devastated she felt after her dreams shattered one by one, but come on!  You are supposed to be the mature one!  There were times that I was so frustrated with her that I did not like her.  But even then, I could still sympathize with her.  It is so hard to have your entire life shaken up like snow globe, so while I didn’t condone her actions, at least I understood them.

There is a lot of emotion packed into this book.  While it’s told from Amelia’s POV, Charly’s terror and unhappiness are painfully evident.  She’s a sixteen year old kid who, after one careless decision, ends up ostracized by her family.  The only caring adult in her life is the aunt she doesn’t even know.  Bree immediately tries to make both girls feel at home, but Amelia is so resentful and suspicious of her motives that she can only give her a hard time.  Ugh! I kept waiting for her to attain some measure of maturity, and it was a long time in coming.  Almost too late, really.  Amelia made me so angry!  I haven’t been this worked up reading a book in a long time!

When forgiveness does finally come, there is still an awkward strain between the sisters.  Amelia has fallen into a pattern of thinking that constantly blames her sister for everything, and dismisses her unfairly.  I think my only disappointment with the story is that I felt that some of the issues that had pushed them so far apart weren’t settled enough for my satisfaction.  That space that developed between Amelia and Charly, and even between Amelia and her father and grandmother, had grown so great that I am not convinced it could ever be bridged.

Grade:  B+

Review copy obtained from my local library