by Sarah Tomp
To be published on March 3, 2014
by Little, Brown BFYR
Source: e-galley for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out. Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything – including her heart?
My take: My Best Everything is a quirky, moving coming of age story that takes place in a small town, a kind of story I'm always drawn to. It has some narrative aspects that could be hit or miss for some readers, but I found it compelling and different.
Lulu's just graduated from high school and is more than ready to leave her small town and head to California, where she hopes to study science. But when her father confesses that he's lost her college fund in a bad investment, Lulu's devastated. The last thing she wants is to get stuck in her "hillbilly" town, working at Sal's Salvage. So she comes up with an idea: she'll use her science knowledge and an old still named Aunt Jezebel to make and sell moonshine as a way to pay her college tuition.
You could take this concept and write it so many different ways: as a thriller, as a dark tragicomedy like Breaking Bad, as a morality tale. So how to describe the way My Best Everything feels? It's character-driven and atmospheric. It's told in an (almost) second person narration, with Lulu addressing a now-absent other character she refers to as "you," telling the story as if she's looking back from the past. I usually struggle with epistolary stories, but I wouldn't say this strictly falls into that category. I also thought the technique worked well in a coming of age story (as an older and wiser Lulu looks back on her more naive self) and it also added a sense of mystery about why "you" wasn't around for her to talk to directly. (I was pretty sure I figured it out ... and I was wrong.)
My Best Everything had a lot of story elements I love. I'm a huge fan of a good small town setting and colorful small town characters. I liked the writing a lot. I also really liked Lulu. She's the kind of girl I can relate to: a smart girl stuck in a small town, a "good" girl who wants to explore the boundaries of being "good" and even trample over them -- all for a worthy cause. I thought all the characters were really well-written, from Lulu and her friend Roni to Reva's parents and various other town residents. All in all, this was a big hit for me.
If you enjoy coming-of-age stories and are in the mood for something a little different, I'd definitely recommend giving this one a try!