Summary (from Goodreads):
“Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.”
I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan and I think this is my absolute favorite of hers. (Before this, it was probably either Just Listen or Along For the Ride, although I’ve loved them all.)
I love how Sydney manages to create a whole life for herself after her brother is sentenced to jail. Before (and really, for her whole life), she’s been a complete afterthought for her parents. It’s not that they don’t love her, but their whole life is Peyton. (Especially after he starts acting out. And once he’s sentenced, their mom is determined to try and do as much as she can to make things better for him. No one really thinks about Sydney, who is now at public school because so much money was spent on Peyton’s defense.)
But once she DOES start public school, she meets this amazing family and almost immediately feels at home with them. The best part, probably, is the fact that they don’t view her as Peyton’s Sister, the way so many other people do.
Like most of her books, there is a sweet love story here but—also like most of her books—that isn’t really the whole point of the story. I love how Sarah Dessen writes these amazing novels about girls becoming comfortable with who they are. Her stories are about transformations in the best way.