For Kellie Brooks, family has always been a tough word to define. Combine her hippie mom and tattooist stepdad, her adopted overachieving sister, her younger half brother, and her tough-love dad, and average Kellie’s the one stuck in the middle, overlooked and impermanent. When Kellie’s sister finally meets her birth mother and her best friend starts hanging with a cooler crowd, the feeling only grows stronger.
But then she reconnects with Oliver, the sweet and sensitive college guy she had a near hookup with last year. Oliver is intense and attractive, and she’s sure he’s totally out of her league. But as she discovers that maybe intensity isn’t always a good thing, it’s yet another relationship she feels is spiraling out of her control.
It’ll take a new role on the school newspaper and a new job at her mom’s tattoo shop for Kellie to realize that defining herself both outside and within her family is what can finally allow her to feel permanent, just like a tattoo. ~ Goodreads
I want to try a different review format. I LOVE lists and dorkily have lists all over my house. Things to do, groceries to buy, projects to finish, books to read, new authors to try, music to listen to, recipes to make, articles to read, workouts to start…it’s really quite embarrassing but totally works for me. So I don’t know if any other site or bookish person is doing this; this blog is only 8 months old so possibly. I was a Dave Letterman groupie in college and his Top Ten was something to look forward to and has been copied to death. So I am just going to make a list with no number required. It will end when I have said my peace.
The reasons I enjoyed this book and why I am sharing it with you:
1. It’s YA at it’s finest. The protagonist is believable at 16 years of age. The story keeps the melodrama at bay and focuses on the teen voice. I am almost 40 and have really enjoyed delving into the YA genre. Something about returning to that precious time where you are coming into your own. I also have a tween so I am curious as to what books she will read, enjoy and remember for years to come. I also appreciate the well rounded teen character who is intelligent and thoughtful while still having fun and living life.
2. Strong core family. Sure they have their quirks and can be deemed dysfunctional, but they genuinely care about one another. The parents give the young adults their space but also demand curfews, honesty, good grades, hard work and respect. Aren’t those YA books that have missing parents annoying? Kind of like the Max & Ruby running joke. They are also a unique, “non-typical” mesh of a blended family who come together and make it work.
3. Real dialogue. The characters actually talk to one another. Yes, many of the feelings and thoughts are part of Kellie’s inner dialogue as she processes the changes in her life, but she still “talks” to her parents, “talks” to her sister, “talks” to her boyfriend, friends and teachers.
4. A sisterly bond. This is probably my favorite part of the book. Even when Sara and Kellie drift apart for a period in the story they still care about each other and want to be a part of each other’s life. I hope my daughters will be close like that and have each other in those tumultuous teen years.
5. Breaking up with friends wreaks havoc on your heart. I didn’t like that this happened to Kellie and Kaitlyn but it’s so well written and oh so real. Another reason why I think teens will connect with this story. When you “honestly” come into your own, sometimes the ones you love don’t follow along on the new path. Which leads to…
6. “Honestly” coming into your own is scary but worth every second. What I mean about “honestly” is that sometimes we squash those things we really want to do/try/explore/experience/say/feel. We are worried that our friends and loved ones will look at us differently or judge. Kellie’s mom takes the leap when she leaves her law career for art classes and tattooing. Sara feels she needs to get to know her birth parents and instead of sparing her family’s hurt feelings she follows her heart. Kellie takes a leap of faith by joining the newspaper and becoming one of the “overachievers” who she has mocked for years, resulting in a break up with her best friend. They all take chances and I LOVE that. Life is messy and not perfect. Wish I had this book when I was 15!
7. It’s still PG-13. AKA YA. I love myself a good smexy romance! The book boyfriends. The hot and heavy scenes. The angst and playful banter. The…oh nevermind. But I feel that there is this gray area lately with YA/NA books. Some YA books are walking that fine line. I applaud and welcome YA books that explore topics like sex, abuse, drugs, poverty, addiction, prejudice, bullying- you know, those topics which we don’t want to face but know that young adults are dealing with day-to-day. As a teacher I have had to deal with these subjects with my students, so I am not naive to their existence. Just write it in the context of the story, not for shock value. And not to please the many 25+ year-old readers looking for a little “more”. Cheers, Ms. Spalding! Especially for your character development of…
8. A strong female teen protagonist. Kellie knows what she wants and goes for it. She is unsure of the choices but doesn’t hem and haw over them. She doesn’t succumb to the pressure to have sex, but when she is ready, she arms herself with knowledge and protection and doesn’t apologize for wanting to. No misogynistic shaming here thank goodness. There needs to be more teen MCs written like this. I am not saying they don’t exist. Just not enough in my opinion.
So there you go. Not a bad list if I do say so myself. As a final note, some might say this story is boring. Nothing shocking is revealed and no major twist leaves the reader speechless. It’s a honest and refreshing look at a family who are dealing with real topics. We’ve all been there or are going through something similar. I wouldn’t call that boring.
To find out more about Amy Spalding visit her website here. Unfortunately you will have to wait to read this lovely book. It will be released on December 3, 2013.
*Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing, LLC for this advance readers copy. I was not compensated or required to publicly review this book.