I received a copy from Netgalley.
I really don't quite know how to review this book. I have somewhat mixed feelings about. For the most part, the main character, Lucille, irritated the hell out of me. She was incredibly immature, but at other times, she had some deep thoughts that were incredibly moving, and a minute later she would be back to being a babbling idiot. Then the end of the book there was a big traumatic event and the emotional impact with everything else going on stepped up hugely and made me cry.
The novel tells the story of how Lucille's mother went on vacation for a break leaving Lucille in charge of her nine year old sister Wren for a week or two, but Mom never came back from her "break". To make things worse her father has recently had a complete break down and left the family and has wound up in an institution due to some unexpected and sudden very aggressive behaviour. Lucille also has a huge crush on her best friend Eden's twin brother Digby, which takes up most of her thoughts when she's not worrying about her sister or her mom and dad.
To give credit where credit is due, even though Lucille's babbling over crushing on Digby and her blathering over how wonderful he is and how unfair it is he has a girlfriend (who was actually really nice when she came into the story, but that's not what Lucille wants to hear) it's actually quite realistic for a teen to want most of her thoughts to be on school and boys and stuff like that. No teen should have to think about hiding the fact that their mother has more or less disappeared and can't be reached for contact.
Lucille is afraid of authorities becoming involved and her sister being taken away. Her sister is trying her best (even though Wren is very clingy) to cope, but the stress of parental absence is starting to affect her school work and personality and her teachers are starting to notice, even at one point one of Wren's teacher wants a meeting with the mom, but Lucille manages to fake permission from her mom so she can talk to the teacher on her behalf. There's the added problem of bills mounting up as well.
Its problems like these that make Lucille worried and its quite understandable. She manages to get herself a job and persuade best friend Eden to help watch her sister in the evenings. But there's problems with Eden's personal life and constantly covering for Lucille is affecting her in a negative way. When she tells Lucille, Lucille bitches and blows up.
Wanting to see how Lucille handles everything was really what kept me reading this book. The tone takes some getting used to. It's first person from Lucille's view point but I found she waffled a lot. It got very annoying very quickly. She's got so much on her shoulders, and on top of that the boy she likes may possibly like her (even though he's got a girlfriend he's had for a few years) she doesn't know if his feelings are genuine or if he's just being nice because of her tough situation. He helps out a lot with watching the younger sister.
The novel is set in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone else and no one needs to lock their doors. Throughout the novel, Lucille and Wren find that kind things appear to have been done when they are struggling - baskets of food are left, someone cleans their yard, someone else does the housework, someone leaves fresh baked pies. Aside from Eden and Digby, they have a lot of help from anonymous neighbours which was very sweet (this is what made me cry at the end when it's revealed who has been helping and why).
No word from mom but at one point Lucille finds her father has gone into a half way house and goes to see him. He's trying to get himself together but all he seems to do is whine about how house rules won't let him drink beer. Lucille is (rightly) pissed at this. Not much help there from him. Though toward the end of the novel, there's a big plot twist involving the BFF, Eden. It's a huge change of tone in the novel and this is where the struggle for Lucille with no adult help gets worse, its getting tougher to find help watching Wren, and now there's this big plot twist to deal with on top of it.
Some good and a form of hope comes through for Lucille when she and Wren find out who has been leaving food and helping them out. It's nice to know there are still people who are willing to help the girls out during their time of need. It's also very open ended which again, had quite a realistic feel to it.
While I wasn't blown away by the characters, I certainly liked the writing at points throughout the novel. So definitely an author I would read something else from.