I do kind of hope that the publisher will slightly alter the cover before publishing the book -- because as is (on both versions of the cover that I've seen), there is a big ol' spoiler on it. A fitting and nice detail, especially after reading the book, but a spoiler nonetheless. And for me, it was a dead giveaway about how the book's arc would progress.
High school junior Josie Gardner has never met her father. She knows his name and she knows he lives halfway across the country in Arizona, but that's about it. But she's not all that interested in getting to know him anyway:
I hate it that--unlike Romeo--Paul Tucci turned out to be a spineless wanker who didn't have the guts to tell my mom about his new, not-so-pregnant, Arizona girlfriend. My mom had to find out the hard way, from Paul's best friend, Sully. On top of that, she had to tell her parents she was pregnant, drop out of high school junior year, and raise a baby.
Ok, I admit it. I am just the teeniest bit biased against Fathers Who Completely Shirk Their Parenting Responsibilities. Whenever I see one of those Datelineexposés about some deadbeat dad whose five kids are living in a trailer park eating moldy bread crusts while he's living it up in his high-rise apartment scarfing down filet mignon, it really gets to me. I mean, who do these guys think they are?
In the first few pages of For Keeps, Josie learns that Paul Tucci's parents are back in town, and that they're probably back for good. It stands to reason that where the parents are, at some point, the son will also be. So Josie has the idea of running into her deadbeat father to contend with, as well as hiding the Return of the Tucci Family from her mother, who, after any reminder of that time in her life, will stay up all night crying over her high school yearbook.
Then her mother starts seeing someone, maybe seriously, and the bond between Josie and Kate, who have always been Two Girls Against The World, begins to splinter -- just as Josie needs her the most.
If you like Sarah Dessen, I'd recommend that you pick this one up, despite the (I say this in retrospect -- while reading I enjoyed myself so much that this didn't occur to me while reading) Days of Our Lives-ish-ness of some of the plot twists.
Josie herself is smart and funny and understandably prickly, and she narrates the story as it happens, so we get to see her react to everything firsthand, rather than hear about it later -- which adds to the realism, makes the story feel that much more intimate as well as allowing for some amount of suspense. (Despite the spoiler on the cover.) I loved that she had a life -- sports, school, work -- beyond home and Her Issues. I especially loved the scenes set at her job -- her affection for and exasperation with her boss just... worked for me.
I did feel that, on occasion, her best friend was a bit too I'M GOING TO BE THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE NOW, and the contemporary storyline that paralleled Kate's high school story was a little too HEY LOOK I'M A PARALLEL STORYLINE for me, but those were really minor issues and probably won't bother many readers. It certainly won't stop me from handing it to every Sarah Dessen/Elizabeth Scott/Deb Caletti-lurrrving patron I have. And maybe to the Days of Our Lives fans as well.
Book Source: Advance review copy from the publisher. Any quotes may be different in the finished copy.
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