I really wanted to like this book. As a middle school teacher, I regularly look for books my students will enjoy. At the same time, I also look for books that can help spark conversations about issues of growing up, growing more independent and also growing deeper relationships with friends and (gasp) romantic interests.
I worry about my girls, especially. And this makes me always eager to find a book they can dive into with enthusiasm and emerge ready to talk about how and when to establish boundaries, how to know whether a boy is a "good" boy for them to like, and what exactly people "know" when they say things like, "I just knew". This book held the promise for all these things and more.
That said, wow, I really hated this book for the first 60 or so pages. The writing was muddy and murky and lumbering. I am quite an avid reader, and rarely need to read a paragraph more than twice, even when reading technical material. And yet, I found myself reading and re-reading passages and pages, helpless to sort out vague pronoun use and too many names of people who had not been introduced yet and stories within the story, the subject of which eluded me. The grammar was sloppy and I felt in a near-constant state of confusion.
However, I am overwhelmingly glad I stuck it out. I discovered as I went along that the style of writing reflects the mental and emotional clarity of the protagonist, Quinn. As Quinn learns more about herself and her place in her family, and even learns what family means to her, the writing evolves to reflect not only clarity but incisiveness on the part of our heroine.
As the writing style changed to what one normally would expect in a well-written book, it faded from notice and the story expanded to fill my attention and awareness completely. I became enthralled, caught up in my own need to know how things would end. Would Quinn and her sisters really set out to complete the quest they claimed for themselves? Once they set out, would they complete it? How would the people they would encounter respond? Would the girls end up feeling satisfied, or disappointed? And who were they doing this for, anyway? Would they ever find out?
Even though this is a young adult novel, I found myself staying up far too late to finish it, unable to put it down. And ultimately, isn't that the truest test of a great book? And so, I forgave all my early annoyance and have granted the full five stars. It was indeed a slog for me to read far enough to "get hooked" by the book, but I'm deeply grateful I stuck it out. I highly recommend the book for enjoyment alone, as well as its wonderful use as a discussion aid for anyone who works with or cares about young women.