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.
This is the first Sarah Dessen book I’ve read in 4 or 5 years and I’m so glad that I decided to pick it up because it reminded me of why I loved her books so much back then.
The story is impactful and moving and I love the way that Sarah Dessen is able to put into words all of the insecurities, hurt, guilt and injustices that Sydney feels. It is such a relatable story and I think anybody reading the book could latch on to some aspect of it. Sarah Dessen’s writing in this book is beautiful, as always. So beautiful that it actually brought tears to my eyes at times.
When I first picked up this book (and having not read any Sarah Dessen for years), I thought it would be a little romance heavy but it was almost the opposite. The romance between Mac and Sydney was subtle and beautiful – I really appreciated the way their relationship was put together by Dessen. I also loved the message in the book; that even when we feel invisible and in the shadows, there’s always someone who sees you. I liked how their relationship started off as a great friendship and then blossomed into something that felt very deep and true.
In addition to the romance, this book mainly focuses on Sydney’s relationship with her parents and her brother, as well as her friendships with new and old friends. Each relationship and character is explored quite deeply, so we get to learn a lot about each character and become invested in their stories. I thought like each person played a necessary role in the story, which I appreciated a lot.
This is one of the best coming of age books I’ve read this year. It did a great job at relaying the message that not everything is within our control and sometimes we just need to look at things in a different light.