Young adult, contemporary romance
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: December 15, 2012
Pages: 176 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Eighteen-year-old Sloan had an ideal family until her father’s death three years earlier, when grief at the tragedy tore her family apart. Her formerly involved mother became cold and distant, spending more and more time away from their home in Lake Tahoe, commuting to a job as an attorney in San Francisco to avoid living at the scene of her loss, and ultimately moving out of the house entirely early in the current school year. As a result of her mother’s abandonment, Sloan has felt impelled to act as a substitute parent to her anxious, depressed, fifteen-year-old sister, who has recently begun skipping school, staying out half the night drinking, and engaging in underage sex with a callous, egotistical jock who broke Sloan’s heart two years before. In the midst of Sloan’s increasing despair at her inability to save her sister and her mother’s refusal to admit there is a problem, a new student shows up in Sloan’s senior class, the principal’s handsome son, Grady. Sloan is too emotionally exhausted for romance, but kind, sensitive Grady proves impossible to resist.
Both Sloan and Grady are highly sympathetic protagonists, filled with compassion, loyalty and integrity. I was delighted that this young-adult romance allows us to get to know both of them deeply by following in the long-standing tradition of adult romance novels, telling the story from both of their points of view.
Sloan and Grady have in common that they are wounded loners, with deep-seated family issues, and each feels isolated in their pain until they meet each other, initially getting to know each other through the school swim team that they are both part of. The journey of character growth of every well-done romance novel is from distrust to trust, and one of my favorite versions of that is what occurs in this novel–the romantic protagonists have the unique ability to see each other clearly, understand each other’s pain, and help each other be happier and healthier people.
Kristen Kehoe is a wonderful writer. The way that she puts words on the page is lush and lovely, and yet she never allows the language itself to upstage her deeply moving story. Instead, she uses her writing gifts to make her protagonists come alive on the page and allow her readers to intensely share the powerful emotions of Sloan and Grady as they bravely strive toward a positive resolution to their family issues and their growing love for each other.
Finally, I am happy to report that there is no romantic triangle in this romance novel, nor does it resort to “insta-love” or defining unhealthy obsession as love. The relationship between Sloan and Grady begins as friendship and develops gradually, naturally, and believably over time.
I rate this novel as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Family Drama Subplots: 4