- Release Date: February 3, 2015
- Pages: 400
- Genre: Contemporary
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (Macmillan)
Skylar Evans has one goal; get out of her small backwoods hometown of Creek View, California. With her acceptance letter to San Francisco State in hand the only thing standing between Skylar and the next step in her life is the summer. But when her mom loses her job and sobriety she's not sure the summer is going to end how she planned.
Right away this book reminded me of one of my favorite chapters from Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things called How To Get Unstuck about Strayed's time as a counselor to girls whose success was measured by two things; not getting pregnant and getting a job at Taco Bell. This sort of mentality is evident in Skylar's story, her best friend is a teen mom and her mom worked at Taco Bell for 18 years. Skylar herself is trying to get "unstuck" from this life cycle. Creek View is a place where future plans are very short sided and people drink and party to forget about their problems.
I feel like the setting of this book is very important to understanding the story. Creek View is this lower income area with a mix of lower income white people and Mexican migrant worker families. Creek Views represents a town we don't see a lot of in contemporary YA; most YAs tend take place in nondescript suburban bubbles.
Skylar is an art student (why is everyone and their mother in YA an artist ?) but it's never explained how she came across art considering where she grew up. I had such a hard time believing the references to art. It felt like Demetrios was name dropping with no context. I'm really hard on this in books because one of my favorite books , Graffiti Moon, does an amazing job of integrating art into the story.
The love interest, Josh Mitchell, occasionally gets a POV that is written in this short stream of consciousness style. He is usually working through some PTSD or self actualization and at first I thought these were not going to work for me because I'm not one for angst, but they were actually some of the best parts of the book. As Josh recalled his time overseas I started to realize there was something real going on here and judging by all the Marines she thanks in the acknowledgments, I assume many of these moments are based on some real experiences.
I appreciated what Demetrios did with Josh. His POV was extremely unfiltered, I usually have this tendency to gloss over cursing and in YA, but even I was like "we can say this???" I also felt like she kept Josh true to his upbringing. Yes, he's a Marine but he also grew up as kind of a douche-bro in a backwoods town so he can be politically incorrect at times. He uses the term "gay" to mean bad and calls people faggots, which is super cringe-worthy but also authentic.
I wish this book has been all in Josh's stream of consciousness POV and maybe 200 pages shorter because I think it's a type of voice we don't see a lot in YA. Towards the end it felt like there had to be forced drama to keep the will they/won't they of Skylar and Josh's relationship and then it gets folded up all too neatly too quickly.
I think this book tells an important story and a type of story we need to see more of in the future, because the Iraq War has been a formative experience for many young men and women. Young adult fiction is having a moment in the sun right now and I think it's important we have books that look at the current events that are shaping young people's lives.
P.S. I'm calling this book getting a cover change in paperback. This cover really doesn't tell you much of anything about what is inside book. It's almost looks like an adult mystery.
* ARC received for review from NetGalley