It's hard to describe how much I loved this book. It's a little fantastical, a little paranormal, a lot emotional, and ridiculously wonderful.
This is the story of a girl whose head is just barely above water. Holly's boyfriend died last fall in a horrific car crash. Her mother is always working. Her sister is in need of constant supervision. Her grandfather joins their family when his Alzheimer's gets so bad that he can't be left alone. She has one friend at school and it seems like everyone else hates her. She has feelings for her dead boyfriend's best friend. It just can't get worse.
Her family is charming and wonderful, even when you want to scream at them in frustration. Her mother is just trying to keep her family afloat, even if it means working several jobs and spending little to no time at home. Her little sister has a good heart and is very lucky to have Holly there for a great role model. Her grandfather sinks farther and farther into the disease, descending where no one - except the ghost of Holly's boyfriend, Rob - can communicate with him. They're well-written and very realistic.
The teenagers in this book are also well done. You hate some of them, you can't help but love some of them, especially Jason, who can only be described as head-over-heels in love with Holly. He's so sweet, and despite the huge difference in their lifestyles, you definitely have to root for Holly and Jason to get together.
The ghost element was interesting. I admit that I was a little worried about this part, but Heather definitely pulled it off. It was subtle enough that you didn't feel like it was an overwhelmingly paranormal novel. In fact, Rob's parts were some of the most emotional in the book. To be a ghost, looking from the outside into the life that you used to live - it would be a truly terrible, painful thing.
And speaking of emotions: do not read this book unless you intend on being put through the emotional ringer. I cried buckets at several different times - and I am definitely not usually a crier. It takes a lot for me to tear up, but this book definitely got to me. Maybe it was the Holly's feeling of despair and utter hopelessness, Jason's sheer frustration that things couldn't go the way they should, Aldo's descent into a place where communication was no longer an option, or Rob's anger at being stuck in a place where no one but Aldo can see him - but he can see everything, including the things he doesn't want to see. It was very reminiscent of Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti.
I was very impressed with the writing style. When I realized that three characters narrated - in three different types of speech - I worried. Holly's passages are written in first person past, Jason's in third person past, and Rob's in second person present. This is truly unique, but adds a unique and wonderful element to the story. Surprisingly enough, they flow from one to the next without disturbing the story whatsoever.
This was my first novel by Heather Davis and I'm thrilled. It was wonderful and I look forward to many more. I was definitely encouraged to seek out her previous novels.