I used to read this book a lot. Sarah Dessen was a favorite of mine in high school, so I decided to revisit those days and read it. And once again I was captivated by the characters and the struggles they all go through in the story.
The main character is Macy whose dad died several years ago. It’s the summer and her boyfriend of one and a half years is off to Brain Camp. Because Jason (the boyfriend) has been one of the few rocks that she could cling to since her dad’s passing she’s upset that he’s leaving and as the weeks progress grows insecure, especially when he emails her saying they need to “take a break.” Life seems a monotonous progression of meaningless tasks (like her job at the library) until she is scared out of her wits at one of her mom’s parties by a member of the waitstaff who was hoping to scare his brother. She ends up helping the chaotic caterers, for whom nothing seems to go right. And in this seemingly normal act, meets the people who will help her out of her grief.
The rest of the story revolves around her new job at the catering company, Wish, and her relationship with all the people there: Wesley, the hot tortured artist whose mother died of cancer, Bert, his brother who is OBSESSED with Armageddon, Kristy, the bright ball of energy whose fashion sense is louder than life, and Monotone…er Monica, who only uses three phrases in any situation. These new friends help Macy mourn the passing of her father and make her not want to settle for ordinary when she could have extraordinary. Why be “fine just fine” when you could be great?
The subplots are important as everything ties into the finale of the story. Caroline, Macy’s sister, wants to redecorate their dad’s old beach house and their mom has yet to properly mourn and move past his death. This is Caroline’s attempt to bring her mother out of her never-ending work and back into the arms of her family. Kristy attempts to find an extraordinary boy for herself and Macy throughout the whole book. Macy and Wes play a game of Truth that carries through the story, where each must answer honestly any question asked by the other person. This ends up being crucial to the story line because Macy tells Wes about the day her dad died and how she ended up watching him die, something that she had never before spoken to anyone.
I think that this book was a great story and encourages teens to look beyond the surface of people, into the interior. All of the characters make mistakes, and Dessen wrote it so that the consequences of those mistakes were evident. She especially showed how they effected the relationships of the person who made the mistake. I loved that no one in this story was perfect. Not the boy, not the girl, not her family, not his family. In fact, there was an emphasis on how no one can be perfect. It did have a fairytale ending, typical of all teen romance/fiction books, but it rounded out the story well, because there was so much angst and so many problems that it kind of needed a little bit of “happily ever after.” I would recommend this book for teens, but not much younger than that. There is a lot of under age drinking (again, Dessen is a realist…), no sex though, which I found refreshing. I hope that others who read this book will find it as enjoyable as I did!