Alexa (Lexi) Baille, fatherless from birth then orphaned in her early teens when her drug-addict mother overdoses, arrives in a close-knit community of Pine Island, near Seattle, to live in a trailer park with her great aunt Eva. On Lexi’s first day at high school she befriends the socially awkward and self-deprecating, Mia Farraday, who is a twin to Zack, a straight A student and the future ‘Home-Coming King’. Jude, the twin’s mother, is the perfect Stepford-wife who spends her time creating a designer-life for her children and, being married to a successful doctor, money doesn’t appear to be a problem. When Mia invites Lexi back to her home after their first day at school, Jude makes a conscious decision that Lexi’s selflessness could give the forever-friendless Mia more confidence so, despite the two families being from the opposite side of the track, Jude actively encourages Lexi into the family. But one dark night, many years later, Jude regrets her decision.
Kristen Hannah tackles a very complex scenario but sadly relies on sensationalism rather than character development that turns what could have been a remarkable novel into something that is more appropriate for a teenage magazine. The issues that arise within the novel: drunken driving; death and teenage pregnancy, are very current in today’s world and the essence of the book, forgiveness, is most commendable but the realism of her characters is overshadowed by this very plot-led novel.
It is definitely a book of two halves. The first half lacks character realism and has a bit of a pedestrian plot. The manner in which the whole Farraday family, with the exception of Jude’s husband who is boringly ‘nice’, tend to feed off Lexi’s altruism becomes rather irritating. However in the later part of the book, Hannah comes into her stride, creating a much feistier Lexi who leads the reader into some very emotional scenes. This is a great book for adolescent readers, in fact, it’s almost ‘a must’, but, for the more mature reader, it lacks depth.
Alison OReilly 14/4/2012