This book had a strong start. Teenage girl with a dysfunctional family, father suffering from severe PTSD from the war in Iraq, constantly having to move from place to place so that part of her life is wrecked, and her experiences at school as a result. Plus, the author is Laurie Halse Anderson, so it's gotta be good, right?
Well, the first third of the book was really good. Laurie Anderson writes the scenes really well, especially the father's flashbacks to the war and how it affected him. He drinks, he smokes, he doesn't remember stuff half the time. Hayley is affected as a result. She's a mix of immature and very serious since she recognises the danger signs of her father when they come up.
She also divides up the entire school as either "zombies" or "freaks". Yeah, she basically hates everyone. I don't mind, this sounds pretty realistic and how she might deal with such experiences.
What I don't get...is how the cliche love romance comes into this.
Yes, there's a love interest, and this is pretty much why the *second* third of the book was extremely dull. New boy in school! Finn is hot, super smart, tutors her in maths, cute flirting, super cute in a lot of the things he does...Pretty much perfect. Yes, he has flaws later on, but at this point? He's pretty much perfect.
I admit that when he asks her out it is really REALLY cute, as is some of their dates.
But...realistically, why would Hayley bother to talk to him?
She hates practically everyone in the school and it's not like he behaves really different? The fact that she has trust issues (which is quite understandable) would mean that this guy is the LAST person she would be getting with.
Also, Finn keeps cracking perfect jokes about maths and all this other weird and random stuff. To make him quirky and romanceable and shit. It just made him sound annoying. I didn't really like him.
The book picked up in the last third of the book and actually became very emotional. Unfortunately, Hayley also turned irritating as soon as her evil stepmother turns up. Yes, there's an evil stepmother, only she's not that evil, because she's human. The characters are all written very well.
I enjoyed the ending very much. I wouldn't call it "heartbreaking" unlike the review on the cover. Actually, I was rooting for a sad ending because that would be better.
I also cheered when the main character broke up with her boyfriend because I was like thank god he's finally gone but oh no, this is predictable romance and he has to come back again.
I mean, the moment Finn appears it becomes "girl-with-shitty-life-can't-take-it-and-has-to-rely-on-cute-bf" I mean come on. I expected better from Laurie Halse Anderson really.
Really well written, but the cliche romance which plagues so many YA books is right there and the book could do without it. I'm also not certain that it portrayed PTSD very well, but it was a good read overall. 3.5 stars.