With her body still recovering from last year's cancer treatments, Leigh Tressman is determined to be independent. Despite the interference from her overprotective brother, physical frustrations, and spiritual dilemmas— not to mention the ever expanding line of young men ready to fall in love with her— Leigh discovers what it actually means to stand on her own and learns that love can be found in unexpected but delightful places.
This book was about cancer like The Book of Mormon is about Jesus. Despite its universal coming of age theme, you have to be a Mormon to read this book. But I don't mean that in a bad way.
Cancer has such a tendency to overshadow everything else in a novel. If there is cancer in a book, the book is about cancer. This is generally very offputting for me. Here's another review I did on a book about cancer, if you need an idea where I'm coming from on this review.
All Leigh wants to do is be over cancer. Chemo is over. She's in remission. But wait, she's not back to her old energetic self? It's almost like this surprises her. But it's less surprise and more denial. I've been in the hospital, awake for days on end, SICK of needles, and SICK of doctors and especially nurses (fyi I hate doctors and nurses), so I could identify with Leigh just being sick of it all. But otherwise, I think I would have thought she was a big baby and that she should just get over it. She's asking for the impossible. Despite a brief claim that she's at peace with life and death and infertility, she wants to have never been affected by cancer. She's dealing with four main things: denial of not being 100 % yet, her overprotective friends and family, being in a major program that is unsuitable for her, and every boy in the book, much to her dismay, falling all over her.
The reader has to make and accept a lot of assumptions about Leigh's illness. You have to have a basic idea about what Chemo involves. I think most people do, even younger readers, but Perry also expects the reader to have an understanding of the social and emotional repercussions a cancer diagnosis can have on the both the patient and the patient's caregivers. The main action of this whole experience, Leigh getting a diagnosis and suffering through cancer and chemo, doesn't even happen in this book, so the whole book is sort of this long falling action from a climax we didn't get to see. I think the relationship Leigh has with her brother, Jaron, is completely weird without this background and a major "eww" factor even with it. I'm pretty sure I have never held hands with or placed my head on any of my brothers' shoulders, not even for one second of my life. Ever. And for someone who wants her independence so badly, I don't understand why Leigh still has this sicky, clingy, physical, flirty relationship with her brother. But again, I come at this book with no background on Leigh's experience save a few brief flashback/explanations, and none of my own. And I am kind of a robot when it comes to emotions, and my best friend had to teach me how to hug when I was like, eighteen.
Leigh's independence is a big issue for her. But as a reader, I'm not sure what she is looking for independence from. Her hovering mother? Her illness? Boys? But she knows Jaron has been enlisted to hover in her mother's absence. And she denies it, but there is no getting away from her illness. And the boys? She says she wants education, not boys, but...really? If she broke up with her brother-boyfriend maybe she could see someone else... Okay, that was a low blow. I can understand not being in the market for a fella, but I really can't understand her alleged cluelessness about guys. She says she was in with the wrong crowd in high school. Did this crowd not include boys? I'm trying to picture what a wrong crowd of just girls would be like. I mean, in an LDS novel, the thing that would make a crowd of girls the wrong crowd, from and LDS standpoint, would be that they were going too far with boys. Right? Right? I don't even buy that Leigh is not interested in boys--because she falls SO fast and SO hard when Noah walks in the door. I don't care what she says out loud, every girl is interested in being loved. Period. Leigh treats the exteraneous boys like she treats cancer--ignore it and it will go away.
The narration of this story slips into "tell" instead of "show" a lot, but the story is interesting and the characters likable enough that it stopped mattering to me after a while. If not the most enjoyable narration style, the author made it work, and it was effective for this story. Leigh learned and grew and matured, and the ending was good.
It's sounding like I didn't like this book, and that is completely untrue. I did like it. I would recommend it to LDS fiction readers, and I would definitely look for more of Perry's books.
*Ebook obtained through Netgalley.com