Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Size: 400 pages
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Amazon Vine
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I got an advanced reading copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine program. This wasn’t the best book I have read by Halse Anderson. It was still engaging and very readable…it just felt a bit unfocused and scattered.
Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road while Andy makes a living as a truck driver for the last five years or so. Andy has decided they should settle down in his hometown and that Hayley should try to lead a normal high school teenage life. Andy has severe PTSD after doing tours of duty in both Afghanistan and Iraq and is struggling with drinking, drugs, and anger that is making his life, and Hayley’s, very tough.
While Hayley is the main focus of the story the story also deals a lot with all the issues her friends are facing. Finn, her boyfriend, is dealing with family issues of his own. Hayley’s best friend is also struggling through lots of trouble with her family. Pretty much all of the character’s in here have home lives that are a complete disaster. This book makes family disaster seem like the norm rather than the exception. In my experience most kids have decent people for parents and I hope that this book isn’t showing the new norm. I also hate the kids reading it would think that all of this is normal.
Anyway…following all these different characters really draws the story away from Hayley. It almost makes it like what she is dealing with with her dad isn’t a ton worse than what all her friends are dealing with. All of this kind of defocused the story and drew attention away from the main issue. It makes the characters sloppier and I thought it made for a more scattered story.
The other problem I had with this book is that given all the real life drama I felt like things are tied up maybe a bit too conveniently and neatly at the end of it all. Things were a bit too happy happy and the ending didn’t really fit well with the rest of the story.
That’s not to say this isn’t a good read. It deals with a lot of issues facing families and teens today. It was interesting to read about a character with PTSD and how that affects a family. There are some good points brought up about how fast soldiers are expected to adjust from wartime to family time. Basically sometimes they are with their families a couple days after being in a war zone. I have a friend at work who was working through this with her husband. He had a lot of trouble dealing with their young son after coming back from a couple years in Iraq, his son was four and didn’t know his father.
The story is very engaging and I breezed right through it. It is still a story that evokes a lot of emotion, I just didn’t feel completely drawn into it like I have with previous Halse Anderson books.
Overall a good book, but not Halse Anderson’s best. This deals with some interesting issues, but the story is a bit scattered. Instead of focusing on one character it focuses on many and I felt like this made the story kind of sloppy. Still, it was an engaging read and I would recommend to those who love young adult contemporary fiction.