I don't really understand why there's a cookie on the front cover when the main character is all about cupcakes, but whatever.
The night that fourteen-year-old Hudson Avery deliberately threw the most important figure-skating competition of her life, everything in her life changed. Her skating career ended before it really began, her relationship with her best friend was irrevocably damaged, and it all started with a cheetah-print bra.
The bra didn't belong to her, and it didn't belong to her mother. Hudson knew, stepping out onto the ice that night, that in handing that bra to her mother, she'd ended her parents' marriage.
Now seventeen, Hudson no longer skates. Her parents are divorced. She and Bug, her little brother, live with their mother in a cramped apartment while their father gallivants across the country—and blogs about it!—with whatever Revolting Young Thing he's sleeping with at the moment. Hudson pours all of her extra time and energy into making cupcakes for her mother's slowly failing diner. She could probably make more money waitressing, but she doesn't want to ever be in the spotlight again. She wants out of Watonka, New York, but she doesn't know how she'll ever get there: after all, she threw away her only chance three years ago.
Or did she? (There's always a 'or did she?' or a 'but then' in these synopses, isn't there?) A chance encounter with a (dreamy, natch) guy on her high school's hockey team coincides with the news that she's got a chance at a $50,000 skating prize. All she has to do is:
- Help the hockey team start winning games,
- in return for free ice time, so she can...
- bone up on her semi-rusty skating skills...
- and keep it all a secret from her mother.
- And, of course, she'll be doing all of this while working at the diner, keeping her grades up, taking care of her little brother, filling cupcake orders, being a good friend...
- ...and then there's the matter of her love life, which is about to get far more complicated than it's ever been.
Jeez, that was a seriously long intro. But, in my defense, there's a LOT going on in this book. It doesn't feel like too much, though. The four main threads—family/responsibility, friendship, future/dreams, and romance—are all balanced. Each major thread even has a minor thread that parallels it—if Hudson's voice had been less believable, I'd have had a hard time seeing all of those coincidences as anything other than a literary device. As it was, I was able to take them at face value: as stuff that just happens.
It works because, as I said, Hudson's voice is clear-as-a-bell-believable. When she spoke, I heard Hudson Avery, not Sarah Ockler. She makes some bad choices, she does some things she's not proud of, but through it all, I continued to pull for her.
The secondary characters are strong, too. In a different book, by a different author—or even in a movie version of this one—Hudson's best friend, Dani, could have ended up as the Sassy Black Friend, Bug could have ended up as the Adorably Precocious Younger Sibling (as it is, he rivals Candace Cameron in Some Kind of Wonderful), Will could have been the Evil BMOC, Kara could have been the Bitchy Ex-Friend, and Josh could have been the Perfect Love Interest (okay, he kind of is). Happily, not so here. Dani, Bug, and all of the rest are actual, real people, with actual, real personalities and actual, real reactions to their actual, real problems.
If you feel like you spend most of your life waiting around for Sarah Dessen's latest, you should really check out Sarah Ockler. Seriously: if you're a fan of YA contemporaries and she isn't on your radar yet, you need to get on that, STAT.
Book source: ILLed through my library.