This is a sequel (companion?) to Saving Francesca, though it can entirely stand alone. This time the story is from Tom’s point of view. After his uncle got blown up in the London Tube, he and his family fell apart. His dad became an alcoholic and drove his mom away. His aunt Georgie went back to her estranged ex-boyfriend Sam — enough to get pregnant, anyway, if not enough to forgive him for the son he had with another woman. And Tom pushed away all his friends from Saving Francesca, worst of all the love of his life, Tara Finke.
If this all sounds like a soap opera… it sort of is. There’s more drama packed into these pages than there maybe needs to be, strictly speaking, and yet it doesn’t matter. Melina Marchetta is so good at making her characters deal with the drama she throws at them, in believable and heart-wrenching ways, that I totally forgot how implausible the whole thing sounds until I wrote it out like that. I pitch it to Jodi Picoult fans below, but unlike Picoult, this story begins and ends with the characters; it never feels “ripped from the headlines.”
Marchetta does rely a little too heavily on psychoanalyzing to us how the characters relate to each other, a problem I hadn’t noticed in her previous books. But mostly that bothered me because I didn’t need it. It’s a mark of her skill that I knew these people — where they needed to go and how hard it would be to get there — even though I was dropped in at the middle of the story… and that I loved them even though many of them were jerks who made awful mistakes.
I loved the way Tom’s day rises and falls on whether he gets that little “1” next to his name in his inbox. Boy, do I know how that feels. And I loved how tight these families are — the blood-related ones, and the families of choice. This is a book about the power of community and family, even when they’ve screwed up badly, and that is a message I can always get behind.
The pitch: Jodi Picoult and John Green fans, the line forms on the right. This is definitely more for adults and older YAs.