Not long after JB was born, my husband and I decided to set up an email account (like this guy) for her so we could send her emails about her milestones and other things we thought might interest her about her childhood. The address and password will be given to her probably when she graduates high school for her to do with as she pleases. We have a baby book that we can put physical things in, like first birthday cards and ultrasound pics, but the email is nice because we can send her digital pictures and videos easily. Some of the emails we write (or at least the ones I write, I haven’t read any of his) get pretty emotional, seeing as there’s no way of knowing where she’ll be in 17 years, or where we’ll be for that matter. But either way, it’ll be a conglomeration of pieces of her life that she’ll have with her even after mommy and daddy are gone.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this book, it’s about a girl named Julie who moves to Boston to attend college, only to discover upon arrival that her apartment had been grossly misrepresented by the landlord. In need of a new place to live, her mother puts her in touch with her old friend Erin who lives nearby with her husband, Roger, son, Matt, who attends MIT, and daughter Celeste, who is 13. She moves in with these strangers temporarily, learning after she moves in that there is a second, older son, Finn, who spends his time traveling, and whose room she is inhabiting. Celeste, who lugs around a cardboard cut out of Finn (“Flat Finn”) so it feels like he’s there with them, suggests cutely that Julie should befriend Finn on Facebook so she can get to know him. She does, and they become fast friends. Over time, things progress further and she begins to fall for Finn, although she’s never met him in person. All of their communication had been via email and Facebook, with fun status updates opening each chapter. At the same time she develops a relationship with Matt, who is way outside of her comfort zone when it comes to relationships. He’s quirky, nerdy, and just not really her type. So starts the love triangle.
However, eventually Julie comes to learn some disturbing news about the family that changes things. You can read the rest of the synopsis with spoilers on my Goodreads page.
Which brings me to what I enjoyed about the book.
1. Character development. Park does a great job of eliciting strong emotions by making each character likeable in his or her own way. Matt is the nerdy middle child who doesn’t quite know how to handle things like heavy emotions and girls. Celeste is the weird-not weird baby sister who understands big life issues and handles them in her own unique way. Julie is the Ms. Fix-it, wanting to help Celeste act more her age and make some friends.
2. The “love” triangle was only annoying because Julie was in love with someone she’s never met in person. There were no sobbing, “WHY WON’T YOU JUST PICK ME?!?!!” scenes, which always drive me bonkers in other books. If you have to beg someone to be with you, they’re probably not worth being with.
3. Family values. This family is truly a support system for itself, with each member being able to move past his or her own issues to help others. They show genuine love and care for one another and are able to be strong for each other.
4. Matt’s love for his little sister was truly admirable. He ended up being much more than the guy he seemed to be at the start of the story.
5. The ending. It was bittersweet in a way, but definitely the ending I’d hoped for.
What I Didn’t Like:
1. (At first) I found the concept bizarre and unbelievable. I thought Matt (and the rest of the family for that matter) was a jerk for misleading Julie in the way he did. But my opinion adjusted after awhile (see above).
2. The way Julie ended up with the family was odd. Her mother hadn’t spoken to Erin in years, yet she was quick to send her teenage daughter to live with her and her family sight unseen. I know it’s nitpicky, but it just struck me as odd.
3. The way the family handled Celeste’s issues really bothered me. The specifics of this are in the review I linked to further up, but the basic gist is, they perpetuated her behaviors, preventing her from growing up in a time in her life where personal growth is really important.
Overall I really enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it. It’s an easy read, but definitely gets emotional. I’m one of those people who rereads books multiple times when I enjoy them, so I’ll probably be putting this one back on my list pretty soon.