The initial set-up is interesting – Hayley’s Dad, a vet with PTSD and an alcohol problem, has quit living on the road and moved back to the house in which he grew up, in part so that Hayley can go back to school, get her grades and go to college.
The good things about this book are the prose and the dialogue – Hayley and Finn are almost too witty, a couple of teenaged Oscar Wildes, so maybe not totally believable but very very enjoyable.
I have mixed feelings about this book, because it is very well written and it deals with heavier issues, which is a good thing. So why didn’t I love it?
Hayley as a protagonist is quite negative, not just with her judgmental attitude towards other girls at school but also, particularly, towards Trish. We never get a clear sense of what Trish has done to deserve Hayley’s unadulterated hatred: it seems unreasonable.
Finn is a highly entertaining character but he seems rather a figment of the “I wish there’d been a boy like this at my school” author wish-list imagination. He’s nerdy, incredibly smart, runs the school newspaper – and is also a complete hottie swimmer with dozens of girls lusting after him. Also, his instant and persistent attraction to the repelling and hostile Hayley seems inexplicable.
Some plot developments seem a little cavalierly worked out, like the way the school newspaper thing fizzles out. And themes are introduced, like the family problems of Hayley's friends, which aren't really dealt with properly and don't seem to go anywhere.
Finally, it was a little bit slow for maybe the final third. It could probably have lost a fifth of its length and been a sharper read.
But I would still say it is a well-written, interesting, worthwhile read. 3.5 stars.