by Sarah Dessen
Viking, 2015. 417 pages. Young adult fiction.
Sydney has always been overlooked in her family, always second to her charismatic older brother, Peyton. But when Peyton is imprisoned for hitting a boy on his bicycle while driving drunk, Sydney suddenly learns just how far out the picture she is as the family focuses on Peyton's prison term. It is in this lonely circumstance that she meets the Chatham family, who welcome her into their tight-knit family and make her feel safe, protected, and seen for who she is.
I think this may have been one of my favorite book by Dessen yet. The theme of loneliness is so subtly written that you can truly empathize with Sydney without ever feeling like she is exaggerating or being selfish or whiny. And yet you can feel a lot of sympathy for Sydney's parents, too, who are in an indescribably difficult situation themselves, even while you wish they would open their eyes to see what is going on around them. The well-rounded characterization makes this more than a teen drama; it is a family drama, as Sydney and her parents try to come to terms with how Peyton's actions have changed everyone's lives. This was really beautifully written. And, unlike some of her other books, this was a pretty clean read, with only a handful of instance of strong cursing.