Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite YA writers. I love Speak,
but I struggled with this book.
Seventeen-year-old Hayley has a lot to deal with: her first year at a traditional high school, her first boyfriend, an alcoholic/suicidal father, and a stepmother who she hates. Hayley is desperate to be a normal teenager, but it’s hard to be normal when her home life is always on the verge of collapse.
There are elements of this book that I love. The writing is great (despite a few obvious typos). The romance between Hayley and Finn is cute, and their dialogue is funny. The plot is a little slow, but it’s interesting enough to keep my attention. I really like the complexity of the relationship between Hayley and her parents. She loves them and hates them, and it feels very realistic. Hayley’s parents are my favorite characters, which is unusual for a YA book. The author did a wonderful job of developing the adult characters.
Unfortunately, the elements of the book that I love are overshadowed by my intense dislike of Hayley. She’s angry, mean, and judgmental. I completely understand why she acts the way she does, but it was hard to read a 400-page novel from the POV of an angry person. I could only take Hayley in small doses. I needed to close the book often to get away from her.
Hayley’s anger also made it hard for me to understand her relationship with Finn. What does he see in her? She’s mean to him, and he just keeps coming back for more meanness. Why?
At the end of the book, I was really hoping that Hayley would learn to be less angry and judgmental. She doesn’t understand that everybody
has problems. Nobody’s life is perfect. She acts like she’s better than other people. She calls her fellow students “Zombies” and gets angry at a girl for wearing a mini skirt. I wanted Hayley to learn to be nice, but she doesn’t seem to learn anything. Her parents are the ones who learn all of the lessons.
This isn’t a bad book. It’s definitely worth reading, and I’m glad I read it. It’s an important story that needs to be told. I just would have enjoyed it a lot more if the narrator hadn’t been a brat.