Author: Carolyn Mackler
Release date: December 29, 2009
Published by: HarperTeen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The title of this novel is what life is all about. Our lives are always tangled up with other people’s lives. Thus, part of how we become who we are is because of the people we live, work, and play with.
This contemporary story follows a month in the life of four different teens. All four teens appear in the first month because they all end up in Paradise during spring break. Because I love how Carolyn Mackler formatted this story—four vignettes that show how each teen’s life is tangled up with the others, I’m going to break down my review of the story by month and teen!
It begins with Jena, the good girl, who has body issues but is also very vibrant and open. She loves collecting quotes. (One that made me giggle: A day without sunshine is, like, night:)She wants to try something new and break out of her shell, and she does this by flirting with Dakota during her spring break. She also discovers a suicide note while out by the pool!
I like Jena as a character. I feel for her as she compares herself to Skye, the beautiful one, because I did that while I was a teen. I never felt adequate or good enough. Thankfully, as I read the story, I imagined her as a confident adult who realizes her self-worth:) I think that means that Mackler created a character that is true-to-life!
At this point, spring break is over, and we follow Dakota as he returns to his senior year at school. We come to find that instead of being the sexy, light-hearted heart-breaker that Jena knows him as, he is actually tormented by the death of his ex-girlfriend and is headed down a very dark path.
I am so glad that I got this glimpse into Dakota’s life because all I could say about him back in April was “what a jerk!” It is a great reminder that sometimes people’s lives appear different than they really are. Dakota, while still a jerk, has some issues at home and at school that cause his rude-dude personality. Thankfully, he is redeemed in the end—but I’m not going to tell you how. Just know that you might come to appreciate Dakota.
After we learn about Dakota’s real life, we jump into Skye’s story. She is the model and actress. Very beautiful, very busy. Because, like Jena, I formed my opinions of characters during my brief encounter with them in May, reading her section allowed me to revise my understanding of Skye and her hectic life.
It turns out that what sounds like an ideal life (wealth, fame, beauty) can have pitfalls. Skye’s life is somewhat different now than it was a year ago, and it has been a struggle for her to adjust. Her character reads true-to-form because, as with any busy life, sometimes we struggle and get lost in the big picture. I’ll give you hint that Jena returns in this story and gets to see Skye in a different way.
Owen’s story raps up this quartet! He is Dakota’s brother, but unlike his athletic and charismatic brother, he is shy and nerdy. He is a blogger, and it turns out that one of the girls from spring break saw him blogging. They have become friends (and maybe more than friends if Owen can get up the nerve to take a chance!).
Owen is fun and quirky. I really connected with his shy personality—he stumbles around and can’t speak when he gets around girls…hehe!—but he has the ability to change as well. Just as all the other characters have a chance to overcome their character flaws.
While the cover may make this look like a fun, light-hearted romance (and some parts of it are, just as some parts will make you giggle), this story has depth. It will make you think about the people in your life that you’ve placed in a box and said—that’s who I think you are—and, maybe, that’s not who they are at all.
Pick this up if you want a quick, fun but powerful story about appearance versus reality!