Since the day Macy Queen watched her father die, she has worked hard to keep her life in control, to be "fine," not to be an object of pity. While her older sister Caroline wept openly, Macy and her mom kept their grief frozen. Soon after that, in English class, Macy connected with Jason -- academically gifted, serious, and completely in control. With Jason as her boyfriend, achieving top grades, and living a well-ordered life, she is "perfect," and this is the glue that holds her and Mom's little family together.
Now Jason is leaving to spend the summer at "Brain Camp," and Macy is facing a summer alone, filling Jason's role at the library reference desk. When she meets Delia, the very pregnant and somewhat disorganized proprietor of Wish Catering, it creates a crack in her well-ordered world. Soon she is working with Delia and her quirky crew: Kristy, a beautiful young woman whose face is marked by scars from a childhood accident -- she dresses outrageously, because if people are going to be staring, she might as well give them something to look at. It also includes Kristy's sister Monica, who speaks in monosyllables, Bert, who has made a hobby of studying the coming apocalypse, and Wes, a gorgeous artist with a criminal history who makes unique, beautiful sculptures from the rubbish other people cast aside.
Macy's friendship with Wes, who has coped with the death of his mother, deepens. He seems unaware of his good looks, and he likes flaws -- "they make things more interesting." With her new friends, and with the spark heating up between her and Wes, Macy's life becomes vivid and three-dimensional. But to risk love -- and to risk living her life on her own terms -- is excruciatingly difficult. It will also upset the delicate balance in her mom's life and in their relationship.
This is a beautifully written, introspective novel, with warm, colorful, quirky, characters and an intelligent teen protagonist. It asks thought provoking questions. What does it mean to try to be "perfect?" Does it take more strength to be a rock, someone who can be relied upon to manage her life smoothly in the face of crushing grief, or to deal head-on with the messiness and unpredictability of grieving -- and of living?
It took me a while to get fully engaged in this book, but when I did, I was hooked. This character-driven novel worked for me once I'd had time to get fully acquainted with all the characters. While this is not my favorite of Dessen's popular YA novels -- that honor belongs to Someone Like You -- it was a compelling and memorable story with an intensely satisfying ending.
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