Published: Penguin/Speak, 1999
Genre: Young Adult contemporary, romance
My rating: 4/5 stars
Description: “Colie expects the worst when she’s sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast — first for being fat and then for being ‘easy’ — Colie has no friends at home and doesn’t expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina.
But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.” (Goodreads)
Why I picked it up: I’m a huge Sarah Dessen fan and I’ve been slowly reading her books one by one since 7th grade. This was one of the last two I hadn’t gotten to yet (the other being This Lullaby). I spotted this one for a few bucks at an outlet store and couldn’t resist.
Summary: I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t my favorite Sarah Dessen novel but it was a quick, fun summer read.
Main character(s): Our protagonist Colie was all right, but she fell a bit flat. I felt as though she was less well-rounded than other Dessen protagonists but as I’ve read nearly all of them, it’s easy to see how much both Dessen’s characters and plot have improved over the many years and novels she’s written so I won’t fault her too much. I felt like Colie’s progress and changes throughout the book were a bit sudden and rushed. I absolutely adored her friendship that developed with co-workers Morgan and Isabel, though, and the way it really highlighted how having a few good friends can honestly change your life. I felt like they were so honest and true to teen/young adult friendships.
Side characters: I liked Norman, but I felt like there wasn’t enough of him for me to care about him too much. I would have liked to have known a little more about him and the way his relationship with Colie built up. One of the things I loved about this book was the friendship aspect, so I absolutely adored Isabel and Morgan, though Morgan frustrated me at times. I loved their dynamic together and I really enjoyed the way they took Colie in and taught her about friendship. It was something I could really relate to and that’s one thing I always look for in a Dessen novel. Another character I would have liked to know a little more about was Colie’s aunt Mira, who she’s staying with over the course of the book. Mira was such a fun and quirky character that changed the way Colie thought about herself and dealing with bullying so I wish we had gotten to see a little more of Aunt Mira’s personality.
Plot basics: This book was a quick read, which was precisely what I was looking for when I picked it up. The plot was the same as the usual Dessen novel: everything is not so great for our average teen protag until one summer when something spectacular happens and her life is altered. And I absolutely love it. Dessen can pull off a similar plot in most of her books without it seeming formulaic. Each one is still completely unique. The change is never huge but something slight that hugely impacts the protagonist and reader alike, and you put the book down feeling like something spectacular could happen to you at any moment. It’s kind of magical, really. I loved that this novel in particular focused on self-esteem and learning to love yourself and be authentic. I left feeling a quite empowered and got exactly what I was looking for when I picked it up. The only complaint I have is that I felt it moved a bit too fast, and I would have liked more of a buildup as well as more time to get to really know the characters.
Author’s style: As you probably already know, I’m a big Sarah Dessen fan. I wouldn’t have read this many of her novels if I didn’t love her style, and I do. Her books are so easy and quick to read, yet beautiful and deep. She proves you don’t have to be constantly lyrical and symbolic to be a good writer. I’m always underlining quotes in her book and I leave them looking at the world a little differently than before.
Quotes I enjoyed:
“Believe in yourself up here and it will make you stronger than you could ever imagine. And good hair never hurt either.”
“It’s so stupid, what we do to ourselves because we’re afraid. It’s so stupid.”
“If something doesn’t work exactly right, or maybe needs some special treatment, you don’t just throw it away. Everything can’t be fully operational all the time. Sometimes, we need to give something the little nudge it needs.”
Recommend for fans of: Susana Colsanti, Gayle Forman, Morgan Matson