From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up–Sarah Dessen's first person story (Viking, 2004) unfolds through the eyes of 16-year-old Macy, a high school student who was with her father when he died of a heart attack 18 months ago. She and her mother have developed a strained routine by convincing each other that they are fine, just fine when Macy knows deep down that they are far from okay. They've never properly grieved or allowed themselves to integrate this awful experience and grow from it. Through a summer of chaotic catering experiences, an acquaintance with a young artist who lost his mother to cancer, and a friendship with a girl who carries her scars openly and deals with them in a like manner, Macy learns what she needs to do to mend herself and hopefully help her mother. This winning novel features convincing parent-child interactions and a growing romance. Stina Nielsen does a great job with Dessen's realistic dialogue, varying pitch, pacing, and tone to differentiate between characters. She delivers the Fine, just fine mantra that is repeated throughout the novel with perfect pitch every time, varied according to speaker and occasion but always on target. Teenagers in middle school and above will relate to Macy's emotional growth and discovery of the importance of communication in this sometimes humorous but always poignant novel.–Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY
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Gr. 9-12. Dessen returns to a familiar theme and recognizable characters: the "perfect" girl at odds with a controlling mother and keeping boys at arm's length because of father issues. Here the girl is Macy Queen. Her father has died, her mother can't grieve, and every time Macy tries to break out of the automaton state in which she is trapped, Mrs. Queen reels her back. Macy gets a job with a catering company, whose employees mirror and mask similar emotions to her own--among them, a girl who is scarred on the outside, but not on the inside, and two motherless brothers, the older of whom, Wes, helps Macy break through. As is often the case with Dessen, the novel is a mixed bag. Much of it is wonderful. At its purest, the writing reaches directly into the hearts of teenage girls: Macy's games of "truth" with Wes are unerringly conceived, sharply focused on both characters and issues. Yet a subplot about Macy's job at the library features cardboard characters and unbelievable situations. This seesawing between spot-on observations and superfluous scenes slows the pace and makes readers wait too long for the book's best moments. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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