By: Meagan Brothers
Release Date: April 24, 2012
After years of boredom in her rural South Carolina town, Maria is thrilled when her father finally allows her to visit her estranged artist mother in New York City. She’s ready for adventure, and she soon finds herself immersed in a world of rock music and busy streets, where new people and ideas lie around every concrete corner. This is the freedom she’s always longed for—and she pushes for as much as she can get, skipping school to roam the streets, visit fancy museums, and flirt with the cute clerk at a downtown record store.
But just like her beloved New York City, Maria’s life has a darker side. Behind her mother’s carefree existence are shadowy secrets, and Maria must decide just where—and with whom—her loyalty lies.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I flew through it. The story is interesting and I cared about the main character, Maria, almost right from the word go. I wanted to know what had sent her fleeing from South Carolina, I wanted to know more about her childhood and how the time around her parents divorce went down, and I really wanted to see how she was going to pull it all together. Then I finished the book and I was surprised at how much I found myself NOT liking the book, and I couldn't figure out why. The writing was good, the characters made sense, there was a good story arc, so why was I so turned off? It actually hit me a few days after finishing the book. Here's what I discovered.
It's not that I didn't like the book, it's that I didn't like some of the people in the book. Not that they were written poorly, in fact the opposite is probably true- they were written too well. I actually hate them. So you know, really well done Ms. Brothers. By the end of this book I cared so much about Maria, and so deeply disliked the choices other people (specifically her parents) made, that I was legitimately angry when I finished the book. As if these characters were real people I could go give a talking to.
SPOILER ALERT (do not keep reading if you don't want to ruin the book)
Here's my issue. For a start I like when there are good parents in YA, at least one. Or a good parental figure, but that is not always realistic. I felt like Maria's story was very realistic, and it's unfortunately one about a girl who really doesn't have any great adult role model to turn to. There were so many bad choices that the parents (and grandparents) made in this story that I wanted to reach into the book and smack them. For instance... who in their right mind sends their daughter, who is a known cutter and who just had a meltdown, to live with her absentee mother in NYC who just happens to be a known drug addict. Not only is Maria allowed to go, but at no point does anyone even try to prepare her for what she might find! They give her vague warnings- like her mother "might" not be able to take care of her. I get that Maria (and any teen really) needs to figure out some things for themselves, but i felt like I needed to throw the poor girl a life line. Here's what I wanted to happen... her Dad would say something like "Honey. I know you want to go live with your Mom, and I'm going to give you that chance, but there are some things you need to know. She has struggled with addiction for years and she may not be winning that battle now. You need to be prepared for what you might see when you get there." and then Maria would probably say something to effect of "I'm 17, not 7! I can take care of myself. Just because you don't love her anymore doesn't mean she not my mother" or something equally teenagery. Point being the girl needed a heads up, so that she was at least marginally prepared for what she was going to find.
Of course I know that if Maria had better parental units this story wouldn't work. Which is why I struggled with the my feelings on this book. So well written. Such a good story, even if it is a bit tragic. Maria has pretty great friends (I might love Dory) and she has her head on her shoulders about as well as can be expected. I just wanted to physically leap in the book and start banging heads together! Which is all to say that this is a very good book. You will grow to care about, and hate, the characters. And that's not something that you can say about every book.