It took me a long time to write this review because I have mixed feelings about this book. I think I wanted to like it more than I actually did.
Carey and her younger sister have spent ten years living in the woods with their drug-addicted mother. After their mother disappears, they are sent to live with their father. Carey must then deal with a new family, high school, and all the lies that her mother told her over the past ten years.
I don’t think a book has ever hooked me so quickly. Within a few pages, I was totally invested in the story. The main characters and their lifestyle are so interesting that I flew through the beginning of the book. The writing is stunning (despite a few clunky metaphors), and the narrator, Carey, has a very strong and unique voice. I can feel her passion when she describes the woods that she loves.
Family is a big element of this story. Carey’s stepmother is my favorite character. She’s very patient, loving, and understanding. All children deserve a parent like her, and I’m glad that she has such a big part in the book. A lot of YA books lack a good adult role model, so I was happy to find one in this story.
My issue with the book is that it’s predictable and not very believable. Carey has a secret that is hinted at through the entire novel. As soon as she mentioned that she had a secret, I guessed what it was. When the big reveal happened at the end, my reaction was, “Meh, I knew that 200 pages ago.” It was a little disappointing.
I also had a hard time believing the story. Carey moves to the woods when she is five years old and spends ten years of her life there. She has a few books, a violin, and very little contact with the outside world. Her mother is rarely around. But, somehow I’m expected to believe that Carey is super-model beautiful, a violin prodigy, and two grade-levels ahead of other kids her age. How did she teach herself without help or good resources? How did a five-year-old survive alone in the woods without doing any permanent damage to her body?
The plot works out a little too conveniently for my tastes. I think this book would have benefited from being longer so that the relationships could have been explored in more depth. For example: Carey’s little sister adjusts to family life pretty much immediately; the most popular boy in school falls in insta-love with Carey; and the issues between Carey and her stepsister are resolved with one conversation. I just didn’t believe everything could happen so easily.
If you’re looking for a beautifully written feel-good story, then this book is definitely for you, but you have to be willing to overlook a few believability issues.