by Sarah Dessen
Published on May 11, 2011
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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 Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.My take: I started blogging the fall this book came out, and am pretty sure I read it that year. To be honest, this wasn't one of my favorite Dessen books. My re-read made me appreciate it a little more, but I still feel like it's a bit flatter and less compelling than some of her other books.
Mclean is a child of divorce. I've never experienced divorce personally, so I'm not an expert, but I thought this book did present a good picture of what it's like to grow up in a family where you have to take sides. Mclean lives with her father, a former chef and now a restaurant consultant who moves around a lot, improving one restaurant at a time. As a result, Mclean doesn't make lasting friends, and has even created a temporary, disposable persona for each new school. But for some reason, she isn't able to do that in Colby. She gets attached to the town, her school, her new friends, and the boy next door.
Dessen books are heavily thematic, something I usually like, but the themes in this felt a little strained to me. There's the (obvious) parallel between Mclean's father's work in making over restaurants and Mclean's making over herself. But then there's an odd subplot about a miniature model of Colby that has to be assembled above the restaurant. There's also a sports theme, as Mclean is named after a legendary local basketball coach, a man who was replaced after retirement by Mclean's stepfather. Maybe there's some connection there I'm missing? Teamwork?
I did like the great crossover appearances in this book. My favorite -- and I only caught this because of my complete Dessen re-read -- was the appearance of Macy's brainiac boyfriend Jason in this book as a minor character. In The Truth About Forever, Jason is an overachieving high school student, while by this book, he's dropped out of Harvard and is working as a prep cook at the restaurant that Mclean's father is remaking. Auden's stepmother Heidi also makes a brief appearance as a friend of Mclean's mom.
This post is not officially part of #ReadaDessen, but be sure to enter to win the Penguin contest for a full set of Dessen books here!
The last Dessen that I'm covering as part of this series is The Moon and Morewhich I reviewed a couple years ago. You can read my review here!, which I reviewed a couple years ago. You can read my review here!
Hope you've enjoyed this Dessen-tastic journey with me!