Mike hasn’t spoken to his mother in years, and what few memories he has of her are painful. When Mike’s dad is killed in a car wreck, Mike wants to stay in his hometown and live with Maggie, his dad’s girlfriend, who has been like a mother to him for the last five years. But Mike’s mother reappears in his life and demands that he return to her custody and live on the other side of the country with a family he doesn't know. The law is on his mother’s side, and Mike will have to grow up quickly and take on the legal system to have the life he wants. This deeply moving story of a young teen's difficult family relationships reflects the reality of many children and teens with strong emotional ties to adults who have no legal rights in the instance of death or divorce.
Thoughts after reading:
Realistic, authentic voice of a teenage boy dealing with the loss of his father and fighting for the right to stay with the woman who's been like a mother to him, instead of being returned to his biological mother he doesn't want to know.
If I were allowed to use one word for this book and one word only, it would be AUTHENTIC.
Everything in this book felt authentic. Real. Organic. From the bond Michael has with his father to the bond he has with Maggie, his father's almost fiancee, to the grief and despair when Michael's father dies, to the impulsive, selfish and impetuous behavior of a young adult, to his confusion about his relationship with his girlfriend Rachel - everything in this book is authentic. Realistic. Organic.
This is a real teenage boy dealing with issues that life has not prepared him for. He struggles, does the best he can and clings to what he knows with a grip born from desperation.
The author created a multi-faceted, fully developed character in this teenage boy who loses his anchor (brilliant imagery there with the boat) when his father dies. Told entirely in the first person present POV through Michael's eyes, this story gripped me from the start. I enjoyed the easy relationship he had with his father, the strong bond he enjoyed with him, the typical teenage responses to hard work and demands, and it was clear from the start that the two loved each other very much.
I was bowled over by Michael's grief, transported in time back to when I lost my grandfather, someone to whom I was closer than to my own parents, and I cried hot tears for Michael and his loss.
I loved Maggie - she is stricken just the same, having lost the man she's loved for five years, overwhelmed by a future without him, but immediately agreeing to become Michael's guardian and petition to keep him when he makes that request.
Even Michael's mother, as little as we find out about her, wasn't just a cartoon character, but someone who struggled with a mental illness that, while not fully described because, remember, Michael's POV, is still covered sufficiently and used as the reason for her actions towards him when he was younger.
I also liked Chuck, the lawyer. He really wanted to do right by Michael and that really came across in the narrative.
Then there's Rachel, the girlfriend. As much as I disliked her for her neediness, I have to admit that her portrayal was, while not well rounded, realistic. There are girls like that, and they confuse teenage boys to no end. She's not a bad person, but she doesn't seem to have a sense of self that sustains her, so she is looking for approval from her boyfriend and others. She's selfish, which is quite normal at that age, hence my thought that she is portrayed realistically.
This is a great book that very well describes the mindset of a Young Adult dealing with horrific grief under very difficult circumstances.
Very nicely done. I look forward to more from this author.
I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return.
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