Since her parents’ bitter divorce, Mclean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move – four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother’s new family, Mclean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, Mclean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself – whoever that is. Perhaps her neighbor Dave, an academic superstar trying to be just a regular guy, can help her find out.
Discovery: I’ve been reading Sarah Dessen’s books since I was 14 years old, about nine years now. While I was disappointed in her last two books, her past brilliant novels like The Truth About Forever and This Lullaby keep my faith in her.
+ Solid premise. Dessen’s plots aren’t rocket science, but she does put a lot of thought into the ordinary settings and characters that she works with. I especially liked Mclean’s relationship with her father and his job as a restaurant rehab king.
+ Fascinating minor characters. Anyone who’s read more than one Dessen novel knows that she loves to bring back old characters. Jason from The Truth About Forever comes back in a surprising and endearing way, possibly sealing my Favourite Character slot. In fact, the entire restaurant crowd’s fun to read about and they seem to have the most joie de vivre.
– Setting. The fictional town of Lakeview, while creatively used in previous novels, doesn’t feel like anything but a cardboard cutout. Nothing is particularly interesting and Opal’s negative opinion about the community model she has to construct is one that the reader will likely share.
– Ho-hum major characters. Dessen is capable of writing characters that walk off the pages, which is why McLean and Dave are disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with them. It’s just extraordinarily difficult to remain interested in their lives. I was never sold on McLean’s “change,” nor on Dave’s feelings for her.
Recommendations: Sarah Dessen’s formula will please the younger spectrum of her fans, but readers who are looking for more challenges can skip this new novel without feeling too guilty.