The indelible impact parents can make is at the heart of this relationship-driven coming-of-age novel.
Grace’s father died in Afghanistan, and her mother is physically present but emotionally immature and manipulative. Her best friend, Luca, was abandoned by his father, leaving his mother to hold things together for her own family as well as others’. Eva has never met her father and is struggling with grief in the wake of her mother’s sudden death. A talented ballerina, Eva relocates from New York City to live with Luca and his mother, her late mother’s best friend, in their small New England seaside town. She and Grace form an intense friendship that blossoms into romance. Both girls easily accept their sexuality—Eva is lesbian and Grace bisexual—as do those around them. Issues of race are naturally woven into the backdrop rather than acting as a focal point of the story, with all major characters being white apart from mixed-race Eva, whose mother was black and father is white. Blake paints a realistic portrait of Grace, a gifted young pianist who must come to terms with her deep love for an alcoholic fantasist of a mother who engages in endless irresponsible liaisons with men and sabotages her daughter’s dream of attending a Manhattan conservatory.
Despite the heavy topics addressed, the story never feels hopeless or depressing, as the author writes with nuance and care about her cast of admirably strong, loyal, and resilient teens who face head on the challenges life throws at them. (Fiction. 14-18)