By Susan Beth Pfeffer
Expected publication September 12, 2011 by Harcourt Children's Books
So I got swept up in Pfeffer's end of the world trilogy and was anxious to see how she tackled a more realistic story (although I guess that depends on your definition of realistic). This tells the story of Willa, a teen in a blended family whose happy life is disrupted when the news breaks that her birth father's wife and two children have been murdered, he is the prime suspect, and it looks like he may be heading right her way.
This premise sounded awesome. I loved the idea that this novel would explore what it felt like to be in a blended family and how your birth family could affect your life and what it means to suddenly discover you're related to someone who has committed a truly heinous act. However, this book never goes that deep. Everything about this feels superficial. I don't feel like we are ever really given a chance to connect with the characters and all their interactions with each other seem phony and unrealistic. Additionally, the very premise of the book - that her dangerous birth father is coming for her - is played out in the first 70 pages. From there, the book moves into another story - about Willa visiting her hometown and trying to deal with her life now. But, like I said, it all feels superficial. We are told very on that Willa cuts - but the reasons for this never feel fully explained. It seems like nothing in this book is really fleshed out and the whole thing very much suffers for that. I didn't really care for the direction that this book ultimately went and the whole thing just ended up being a big disappointment. It had a lot of promise but unfortunately fell far short.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.