Authors: Laura and Tom McNeal
Published: 2004 (Random House)
This is another book I’ve been staring at wondering what it’d be like for a long time, since I was in high school and nosing around the Nancy Carson Library in NA. And I finally got it and read it, and it’s not as epic as it built up in my mind, but it IS good.
It’s about a kid who discovers his stepmom is having an affair, and that discovery sparks off all sorts of uncomfortable hormonal and loyalty feelings in him as he tries to decide what to do about it while he’s also dealing with the girl he has a crush on and the college girl who makes very flirty friends with him and his weekend job with an asshole boss who is causing criminal mischief on the downlow.
Mick’s pretty average, maybe a touch more sensitive and intuitive than the usual 15-going-on-16-year-old, and I wish we could’ve read about his feelings and events in first person because I feel like that would’ve humanized him even more to get to the maximum emotional payoff. But then we wouldn’t’ve gotten to hear about all the other (teenage) characters’ secrets that tied together by the end. Sort of.
The only plot line that is really concluded is the creepy weekend boss’s kleptomania habit in the old folks’ community where he oversees the landscaping. That has a definite reveal, escalation, and resolution (guess who got arrested!).
The crush object? Develops her own crush on a fellow Mormon when she sees Mick and the college girl together; college girl eventually reveals she’s a lesbian and releases Mick to go get his crush object; Mormon dude goes back to whence he came and got back with the chick he left behind; Mick and crush object find each other again.
The most fractured storyline was the stepmom’s infidelity, which Mick does confront her about, and she does admit it, but nothing else ever happens about it, I guess because the rest of his life kept happening, but he was pretty obsessed with it and it just peters out.
I appreciate the realism and lack of melodrama; this book is an excellent example of how the real world and grown-up world can both be truly confusing, murky places to navigate the first time you really see how fallible your favorite people are and what exactly your deepest feelings might mean.
But I didn’t quite connect with everybody like I wanted to. Mick is too average to take this in weird directions. However, the seamlessness of a tag-teamed writing and the humanness of the characters and situations made this a good read that didn’t bother to condescend to its prescribed audience (YAs). (I wish that was a given, but not so much.)