Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.
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The characters in this book are so lovable, from the moment we meet them. Sydney is one of those precious characters you can’t help but instantly relate to, especially if you’re a little nerd like us. She’s just a little bit terrified of everyone, and man do I feel that. Worry not, though, she meets the greatest family you could ever hope to meet! Layla is my favourite character from this book. She’s the kind of best friend everyone deserves. She’s warm and loving and accepting, but isn’t afraid to give you a bit of hard truth when you need it. She brought Sydney out of her comfort zone in all of the best ways, and throughout the entire book I wanted to hug her. Then there’s Mac, the guy Sydney inevitably falls for. Sure, I could see that from the beginning. Did it make me love him any less? Absolutely not! He’s a bit stereotypical, but I forgave him. Every time he took Sydney to deliver pizzas I was overcome by a weird amount of jealousy. I wanted to be on those pizza runs so badly… Sydney’s family were far from lovable, but they did really add to the story. As Sydney went through all her own character development, there was the overhanging relationship with her brother and mother, and the creepy friend. It wasn’t major, but it was there, and it broke my heart.
Sure, the plot was a little slow. The thing is, this isn’t a romance or any sort of definable genre. It’s a story about people, a story for the sake of being a story, and that means nothing really goes anywhere. For me, it was exactly the mood I was in at the time, so I’m not at all complaining. You could see Sydney changing almost every time we saw her, and it was so great seeing how much she grew. Layla changed in some pretty important ways too, and although she wasn’t the main focus, it was still really nice to see. The relationship between Mac and Sydney was slow, and for a lot of people that was irritating. For me, though, it worked. It wasn’t about Mac, it was about Sydney dammit, and she didn’t need a boyfriend when she was the kind of person she was at the beginning of the book. Personally, I’m happy with a book about people, but if you need more than that, don’t force yourself through this book!
Overall, this book was easy for me to fall in love with. It’s never going to be one of my absolute favourites, but it’s definitely confirmed how much more Sarah Dessen I need to pick up!