Really enjoyed this character driven book about a teenaged girl named Ruby who was abandoned by her mother and was forced by social services to live with her estranged sister. Sarah Dessen does a wonderful job filling in the story with a well-rounded, kooky, yet realistic cast of side characters.
I picked this book up because I was looking for a contemporary YA romance to help with some scenes I had been writing in my current novel and had been recommended to Sarah Dessen as a “YA chick lit” author, but I’m not sure this particular novel was the right choice for this purpose. While the cover for the book certainly looks the part, I’m not sure I would even call it “chick lit” due to the seriousness of the book and also the lack of a strong romance. There is an important romance angle to the book, but I actually didn’t feel the sparks between the characters as much as I would have hoped for it to really be labelled “chick lit” or “romance”, though the development of the relationship between the main character and her love interest, Nate, was well thought out.
I did feel that Ruby learned a few too many lessons from the other characters and was occasionally a little too astute about her own psychological flaws. For example, Ruby comments that another character isn’t good at opening up to other people because she is afraid that she won’t be able to control the outcome, and then Ruby instantly realizes that she herself does the same thing. While the fact that she was able to learn so many important things from the other characters was rather awe-inspiring as a writer (lots of characters to coordinate, yet each of them were important in their own way and to the overall conclusion of the story!), but as a reader, it felt a little teach-y.
But despite this, I actually really loved this book and found it very compelling. I read the whole thing in one day!