I received a copy from Netgalley.
A gut wrencher of an emotional ride. This novel tells the story of Grace who lives with her flighty mom who goes through strings of bad relationships. Grace only has one real friend, Luca, who looks out for her. When new girl Eva comes to town and moves in with Luca and his mom, she begins a friendship with Grace that slowly turns into something more. All the while things with Grace’s mom go from bad to worse, all the while Grace claiming she’s coping with it all and she’s “fine”. But is she?
The novel was deeply moving and very emotional and made me cry more than a few times as Grace struggles to keep her head above water. Her mom is a new contender for one of the worst YA parents. Her dad has never been in the picture, her mom has always followed her “creative” side, flitting from place to place and relationship to relationship, with seemingly little care to how all of this affects Grace. Mom also drinks.
At the start of the novel Grace’s mom has moved in with a new boyfriend, Pete, who happens to be the dad of one of Grace’s ex boyfriends, Jay, who was an asshole when they broke up. Pete actually turned out to be a pretty nice guy. Jay, who was big dick through most of the novel even stepped up to the plate and turned out to be surprising.
Grace and Eva start to bond and get to know each other, and it’s a delightful slow burn sizzle as things progress between them. Eva’s dealing with the death of her mom, (I can’t remember why her dad wasn’t in the picture). Grace sort of doesn’t know how to handle that. The more time they spent together the closer they become and it turns into a much deeper relationship. Eva’s completely comfortable and aware of her own sexuality - she makes it plain she likes girls. Grace is struggling - she likes both boys and girls and does eventually come to the conclusion she’s bisexual. Bisexual representation was handled really well. And there were some lovely romantic scenes between Grace and Eva.
But all the while Grace’s mom is flitting about, things start to go missing from Pete’s house. While Grace is mortified, mom’s like, oh it’s no big deal. Then Mom starts cooing over Eva, focusing most of her attention on helping Eva deal with her grief, which is pissing Grace off to no end.
Grace had a bit of a loner complex about her, though she had her BFF Luca, Luca had a new girlfriend Kimber, who was taking up a lot of his time, and while she and Grace got along, they weren’t exactly on the BFF train. More for Grace to deal with. She had a snarky attitude about her, and given her circumstances, it’s understandable, she’s had to deal with some tough situations where her mom is concerned. Grace has always been the responsible one, taking care of her mother, dragging her out of seedy bars, making sure rent and bills are paid. Basically having to grow up way too fast.
Though Grace has a dream of being a concert pianist. She’s got the talent, and even has an audition for a fancy music school in Manhattan. Though reality gets in the way and she’s struggling with the idea of leaving mom to cope on her own. Mom never seems to listen Grace. Mom’s been telling her they’ll make a day of it for Grace’s audition and go spend some time together in New York, and Grace seems to be clinging to the hope this of this idea. Yet, part of her isn’t entirely sure of whether or not it will happen due to circumstances in the novel. It’s gut-wrenching to read about Grace agonising over this.
Grace has comforting relief in Eva as their relationship takes a deeper turn, but with mom’s involvement in fawning over Eva, it’s not helping. Grace is pushing her anger and resentment back again and again and there’s only so much of this anyone can take before it inevitably explodes.
When it goes wrong, it goes wrong fast and hard and it’s painful to read. It was very emotional in parts, very raw and cut deep. I really wanted to slap the mother and hug Grace a lot. Grace handled a lot of things with immense maturity, even though she had (and was more than entitled to) a few stroppy moments.
While her mom was awful, the saving light adult in the novel came from Luca’s mom Emmy, who was there throughout when Grace needed someone, and really came through like a beacon when things got to the really tough stage. Emmy was the mom Grace really deserved. Though while her own was awful, at the same time, you can understand Grace’s attachment and reluctance to leave her to it, even when things got bad. Until they reached boiling point.
A beautifully, lyrically written novel, though can be very tough. I loved it.
Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for approving my request to view the title.