For the first three-fourths of this book, I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up liking it. Mainly because for the first part Mandy annoyed me, and then, when I was finally warming up to her, Jill started driving me crazy. But I came around to them both, eventually.
Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.
Mandy, I had a hard time with because at first she comes off as so shallow and naïve. I reacted to her a bit like Jill does as first, thinking she’s dumb and probably trying to scam Jill’s mother. But I really came to like Mandy, actually. Like Jill finally admits, “That Mandy. She might not be the smartest person to ever walk the earth, but she has a kind of power about her you have to admire.” And I really did come to admire her—she has a hidden strength I wasn’t expecting.
And speaking of Jill, I had the opposite reaction to her as I did to Mandy. At first, I liked her fine. But Jill’s cynicism and inability to just suck it up and be nice to those around her started grating on my nerves. At least Jill realizes she has that problem, though. But even more than her attitude, I hated how Jill falls for Ravi while she’s still with Dylan. She doesn’t even feel bad about it. And Dylan’s such a good guy—I wanted to smack Jill every time she flirted with Ravi. I just don’t understand why she didn’t break up with Dylan when she knew she had feelings for Ravi. Ug. Anyway, despite that, after Jill loses the attitude towards the end of the book, I started liking her again.
Anyway, my like/dislike of Mandy and Jill aside, I thought this book did a pretty good job at exploring how all the different parties involved in an open adoption would feel—from the doubts, to the uncertainty, to the excitement. It’s a tough situation, and I’m glad this book didn’t try to gloss over the problems and make everything easy. Also, I was pleasantly surprised by the ending and how it all works out. The solution was different than I had anticipated, but I ended up thinking it was pretty perfect.
Overall, despite it taking me a lot of time to warm up to the characters, I think it’s a worthwhile book. While I’m not always the biggest Sara Zarr fan, I always admire her willingness to tackle issues that don’t get brought up very often in YA fiction. And really, I think this is the Sara Zarr book I like best so far.
Rating: 3.5 / 5