A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this story is about a family torn apart by an affair. The heroine’s parents divorced after her mother began an affair with a well-known basketball coach, resulting in a very public scandal. The teens have a very casual attitude toward drinking alcohol. One boy is under close supervision by his parents after getting arrested for drinking at a party, and his friends contend his parents’ response is draconian. The capable protagonist Mclean has problems but she realizes that connecting with other people -- family and friends -- makes her feel at home in the world. As her relationships deepen, she realizes how people can be much more complex and surprising than they first seem.
What's the story?
Mclean and her dad set up house in a new town every few months, rootless and adrift in the wake of her mother’s affair with the coach of their favorite basketball team. While her mother starts a new life with a wealthy husband and two babies, Mclean struggles to find her own path. She feels protective of her father, pulled and pushed by her mother, and wary of feeling tied down by anyone as college gets closer and closer. With each move, she adopts a new persona: cheerleader, student organizer, drama kid -- until she arrives in Lakeview, where she finds herself making friends who really matter to her. As Mclean begins to lower her defenses, she starts to rediscover herself.
Is it any good?
Older tween readers will appreciate the authentic voice and realistic characters in this rambling but touching story. There’s much for them to connect with, including out-of-touch parents distracted by their own drama who leave their daughter to stumble along more or less on her own. This is familiar territory for Sarah Dessen, who again skillfully taps into the emotional life of teens. The characters are both eccentric and familiar, defying easy stereotypes. The storytelling is sometimes convoluted -- Dessen often skips backward and forward in the narrative, drawing unnecessary circles -- but on the whole it’s a well-told character study with a strong supporting cast.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what drew them to this book. Have you read Sarah Dessen's other novels? If so, how does this one compare? Why do you think her work resonates so well with teen audiences?
Also, this book portrays alcohol use by teens as a minor, normal, no-big-deal issue. Do you think that's accurate, and a way of giving the story some authenticity? Is YA media at all responsible for shaping teen behavior?
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