This slice-of-life, grief book by Sarah Dessen is published by Viking Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group and is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Macy Queen and her mother hide behind hard work and perfection to avoid grieving the death of Macy's dad. When Macy's dull, brainy boyfriend, Jason, leaves for the summer, she inadvertently finds herself working for Wish Catering. The colorful staff members, including handsome, artistic Wes, teach her how to feel alive again — but her mom and Jason aren't thrilled with Macy's newfound independence. In the end, Macy helps her mother begin the grieving process, too.
Macy says her family never went to church, and her mom felt guilty about it. Her dad, who loved to make big Sunday breakfasts, said that cooking was "his form of worship, and the kitchen was his church, his offering eggs and bacon and biscuits . . . "
Macy depicts her late father as someone who supported and spurred her on — particularly with her running track. Besides his failure to encourage church involvement, we learn from Macy that he usually came back from his fishing trips with a hangover. Macy's mom has become a workaholic since being widowed, though Macy offers glimpses of her as a once-vibrant woman. She is somewhat rigid (some might simply say "cautious") with Macy concerning where she can work and with whom she can associate, but she seems to loosen her boundaries in the end, for better or worse. Delia, owner of Wish Catering, is a kind woman who has taken her nephews in after her sister's death — but she does a fair amount of cursing in front of them, the other staff members and even her 4-year-old daughter.
Other Belief Systems
Bert, a 16-year-old who is a bit reactionary since his mother's death, obsesses over his Armageddon club and various scientific end-of-the-world theories.
You'll find nearly every profanity in this book, including variations of the f-word and a dozen uses of the s-word. God's name is used in vain too often to count.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Once Macy starts hanging out with the Wish crowd, she begins to drink and go to parties. The alcohol loosens Macy up and gets her talking (communicating to readers that drinking, not therapy, may help resolve grief issues). Macy's sister and new friends seem to think she's not really living until she has started partying. Do you agree or disagree with their definition of what it means to live your life to the fullest?
- What does the Bible say about partying (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:18)?
- Based on the author's portrayals of Jason, the girls at the library and Macy's mother, you could get the idea that being responsible and hardworking are bad character traits. Did those characters seem realistic to you, and how did you feel about them?
- Is there a godly balance between working hard and enjoying life?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.