Lauren Werthman struggles with guilt and depression. Even moving to another state and into a new home doesn't help her overcome the life-altering aftermath of losing her sister. Memories of the tragic accident reverberate through her life as her family tries to cope, but Lauren's life spirals out of control. Her mother criticizes her choices every day, her father continues to work later and later, and people at her new school seem to know the family secret. Lauren binge-eats, has nightmares, and doubts the existence of a God Who didn't intervene to prevent the senseless tragedy. As Lauren's family and friends work through the pain and guilt, will they find that even though the void will always remain, the power of forgiveness brings peace and hope and a bright future, or will Lauren forever be lost to the pain and guilt?
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.
Rating: 1 Star
Warning: SPOILERS ahead
The premise of this book sounded good. Tragic, yes, but it was a compelling plot. It was a quick read, easily finished in a day.
However, this was an instance where, though it started out well enough, it spiraled and became something like a jumbled mess.
It is hard writing this review because there are so many things that I consider wrong with this story and I'm not sure where to start.
This book was incredibly sort, about 200 pages. I think that was a hindrance in and of itself. If the author had taken the time to flesh out some of the other problems that I'll mention in a moment, then I think this story would have been a lot more successful.
The first thing that comes to mind is that the entire plot of the story seems to happen within a week, maybe two if you're lucky. There's no concrete mention that I can find except when Lauren, the MC, talks about events and alludes to yesterday or the first/second day of school.
The fact that all of this happens so quickly is not believable in the least. Lauren herself changes entirely too much. She goes from not liking Jonas, the "love interest", and being uncomfortable with him praying in public to being totally in love with him the next day. That is not believable, that's not how that works. She defends him practically the next day to someone who mentions his "God thing". It's like a switch flipped regarding her personality.
It takes insta-love to a whole new level. The love triangle that develops is another trope that gets tied into the story for no other reason, it seems, than it's a somewhat popular aspect of YA fiction. Lauren, for all the teasing that she suffers and hates, is really mean to Eli, a kid who may be unconventional, but is never anything but nice to her. It's almost hard to call it a love triangle, but that's where it felt like it was heading.
There were plot points in the book that felt like they were introduced for no reason. They happened in the later half of the book and I was worried that there wouldn't be enough time to address them properly. I was right, but it was so much worse than I thought it would be. The issues were not addressed AT ALL. Tiffany, the mean girl of the book, is revealed to have bulimia, but after Lauren calling for the nurse and Tiffany's mother showing up, do you ever hear about her or her problem again? NO! When Eli, another part of the "love triangle", sees Lauren kissing Jonas and runs off to the art room to cut himself and "deal" with the situation, do you ever hear about him getting help other than the promise Lauren extracts for him to go see the school counselor? NO!
You cannot introduce topics like that, dealing with mental health issues of such severity, and then write them off. It's disrespectful to the people that suffer from those problems and it's disrespectful to the reader, asking them to believe that things are just so great because the main character talks to the troubled kids. You're expected to believe that the mean girl and her cronies are all of a sudden going to be nice because Lauren tattled on her to the nurse (as Tiffany herself puts it).
The last 50% of the book was the worst, when I felt like the author was changing the personalities of the characters on a dime so that she could wrap the story up. It made no sense and had me screaming at my Kindle.
Lauren's mother, the one who's helped make her daughter feel terrible because of her issues with food, is an alcoholic using her drug of choice to cope with the death of her younger daughter. You find out, all of a sudden, near the end that she feels partly responsible for the little girl's drowning death because she left the gate to the pool unlocked. Even after this, she states that she doesn't want to take to a therapist, even though she's so happy that Lauren found someone she can talk to (who, by the way, is the school therapist that she forced Lauren to see).
However, a chapter later, she's apparently checked herself into rehab. A week goes by from that point, Lauren and her dad go to visit, and guess what honey? Mom's doing so great we're going on a cruise in a month or so! Isn't everything rosy and grand now? And since Mom's reveal of forgetting to lock the gate, Lauren feels so much better, practically 100% because she has someone else to share the blame and it isn't all her fault anymore?
THAT'S NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!!!
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