After finishing this book in a day and half, I sat quietly in my living room and thought. About lots of things. About Annabel, and her struggles throughout the book. About the mysterious Owen, with whom looks were very much deceiving. About Emily, who did what Annabel couldn't, about Clarke who was left behind once but was somehow back in the picture again, about Sophie, without whom there would have been no story. About how breathtakingly brilliant this book is, and how I was so sad it was over because I wanted it to keep going forever.
What would you do if your neat, controlled world was crumbling around you, and there was nothing you could do to stop it? Well, The best way out is always through and Annabel does the only thing she can do, she keeps her head down and keeps going, but cannot escape the mess that surrounds her at home, school and through her other life as a teen model in a small town. Every second of every day she is remembering what has happened in the past, be it years ago when she was in middle school, or the summer before or just that very morning. Over night she has gone from the girl who has it all to a social outcast, a switch no one could have anticipated and for which she was in no way prepared.
I enjoyed this book immensely because it was such a breath of fresh air. The writing is bright, the observations imaginative and acutely documented. The characters really live on the pages, jumping out at you as the story progresses, whether they're one of the few coasting along, or one of the many struggling through. Owen, the boy who never lies, is the most intriguing of personalities, and his various obsessions - music, honesty, anger management, double bacon Sundays - draw you in in a way that is hard to imagine unless, like me, you've just finished the last page of this book.
Though set around the family and friends of a high school student, I wouldn't categorise this solely as a young adult book. The characters don't seem your usual teens. That's not to say their behaviour (or rather language) is ludicrously removed from that of their real life peers à la Dawson's Creek because it's not. What I mean is, there's almost an ageless quality to them, and to the plot lines, and the same scenarios and reactions could be invoked whether they were in their 20s or 30s. High school provides the backdrop, but it isn't the script.
I can't put down on paper just why I liked this book so much, other than to say that, like Chandler's supposed gay-ness, it has a "quality". From the first page you are sucked into a story that jumps forward and backward in time over the pages, but does so in such a fluid way you feel that what comes next is just exactly what you where thinking should come next.
Every so often you'll come across a new author and be blown away, instantly eagerly awaiting their next book. This is how I felt when I finished this book - I wanted more, and I wanted it now. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover Dessen has a whole back catalogue of books just waiting to be devoured and you can find out more about the author on her website:
This review first appeared on The Bookbag. Published in 2007, this book is now widely available used on Amazon for 1p which IMHO is 1p very well spent. There's also a Kindle edition available.