I first heard of this book on Reading in the Dark, and Hannah made it sound quite interesting, and even heart-warming in a way, so I got it to read for myself.
It kind of reminded me of a Jodi Piccoult book. I read a whole bunch of her books 7 or 8 years ago, and this has a similar approach in that it's about a family grappling with a serious modern issue. In this book, it's what happens to a family when one sibling goes to prison.
Sydney's older brother drives drunk and hits a young teen with his car. He was already on probation, so he has to serve time for it. Sydney's parents spend all their time thinking about her brother and ignoring her. She decides to switch schools because she's tired of being known simply as the sister of her popular and infamous brother. At her new school, she makes friends with two siblings, Layla and Mac, who welcome her into their circle of friends. They're nice to the point of almost being too perfect, though they do have a flawed older sister.
Then there's Ames, Sydney's brother's friend who creeps her out. Getting into spoiler territory here, so skip to the next paragraph if you don't want spoilage. I was actually annoyed that creepy Ames did end up assaulting Sydney because it felt rather cliche -- teen has creepy feeling about someone and it turns out they're evil. Happens so much in YA. I'd have much preferred if she'd had a creepy feeling about him, but he never actually did anything horrible, because that would have been much more realistic. I've known a lot of people that gave off a creepy vibe to me, but weren't actually creepers. I know that it's important that teens learn to trust their gut instinct because creepers do exist, but I feel like this is so prevalent anymore that teens could start believing, "Oh, I thought that person was creepy, and I need to trust my instincts, so clearly that person is bad!" Which ain't necessarily so. However, this is fiction, and there are certain things you have to do in fiction -- if you spend lots and lots of time throughout the novel discussing how creepy someone is, they'd better turn out to actually be a creeper cuz your audience expects it.
Okay, mild rant over. For the most part, I liked this book a lot. One thing I absolutely loved about it is that there's zero sex. Not only that, but even though Sydney gets a new boyfriend, and they do kiss, there's never any suggestion that either of them were even considering sleeping with each other. It's not simply a given, which feels kinda rare for modern teen fiction.
Particularly Good Bits:
I'd done the right thing. I always did. It just would have been nice if someone had noticed (p. 61).
If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for themes of teen alcohol and drug use, a scary moment, and mid-level profanity, including taking the Lord's name in vain.