My Best Everything

Today, thanks to NetGalley and the Great Southern Ice Event of 2015 (hopefully, the only ice event of the year), I bring you yet another post on a recent read. That book is My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp and is due to be released on March 3rd.

I finished reading My Best Everything at about 10:30 this morning, and I’ve been thinking about it since then. After a few hours, I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. It’s certainly an interesting read, but parts of it really bugged me. The entire scheme cooked up by the main characters seems thoroughly implausible to me, and the ending, while somewhat satisfying, was kind of anti-climactic. I expected a bigger fallout, especially considering exactly what our protagonists were involved in.

On a positive note, though, My Best Everything wasn’t at all the love story I was anticipating. It went much deeper than that. This book–which needs a better title, by the way–gave me a story that did touch on first loves, but it also delved into things like self-control, looking to the future, escaping one’s past, and making hard–and sometimes dangerous–choices to achieve one’s goals.

All Lulu can think about is getting out of her small town. She doesn’t want to be one of those girls who stays in Dale, Virginia, and never leaves. Lulu’s plans to go to college in San Diego, however, have just hit a major snag. Her father, a traveling businessman, has just lost all of Lulu’s college money. It looks like Lulu may have to stay in Dale after all.

Or will she? When a moonshine still is sent to the junkyard where Lulu works, Lulu and her friends cook up an insane–and totally illegal–money-making scheme. What if they make and sell moonshine this summer? How hard could it be?

Well, as it turns out, there’s more to making moonshine than Lulu, Roni, and Bucky thought, so they turn to Mason, a troubled young man whose family has a long history as shiners in Dale. Lulu is intrigued by Mason, his past, and his vast knowledge of moonshine, but she’s also drawn to the man he’s trying so desperately to become.

Even as she and her friends are getting more caught up in making moonshine, Lulu worries that her great plan could ultimately be Mason’s downfall. Can he, with all of his personal demons, handle what they’re doing? Can Lulu? And can their fledgling relationship survive all of the pressures to come? Lulu is still focused on leaving Dale forever, but what will that mean for Mason? Is she ready to say good-bye to this young man who has quickly become so important to her?

This summer, changes are on the way for Lulu, Mason, and their friends. Nothing will end up quite like they expect, and their moonshining venture will impact everything they thought about themselves and their plans for the future.

Will Lulu make it to San Diego? Will she stay with Mason? What will become of their business as moonshiners? Can a small group of kids really make something like this work? Or will all of their efforts blow up in their faces? Read My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp to find out.

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Maybe I’m alone in my sheltered little world, but I find the very thought of successful teenage moonshiners to be something of a stretch. In this book, though, the characters not only became moonshiners, but they also became pretty good at it. Yes, sometimes things didn’t go according to plan, and things didn’t quite end up like they’d hoped, but they really made a go of it. It was impressive…and disturbing.

Also, aside from the impact on the characters’ personal lives and relationships with others, there weren’t really any consequences for their highly illegal activities. I think that’s what bothered me the most about this book. The authorities weren’t even a real presence in the book, and some of the characters didn’t acknowledge being found out as a legitimate threat. I guess the rule-follower in me expected some sort of punishment for their actions, and, even though I would have likely rooted for the characters to escape the long arm of the law, I did want that arm to be present. Quite the conundrum.

I did like the way My Best Everything was written. Almost from the beginning, we know that the book is essentially a letter to Mason. But what kind of letter? Is Lulu telling him goodbye? Is she writing him a love letter? Is she simply trying to explain why things happened as they did? The reader never really knows, and that’s part of what I enjoyed about this book. Lulu lets us know that things didn’t happen the way she wanted them to, and, even at the end, we still don’t know what the future ultimately holds for her and Mason. It’s up to the reader to fill in those blanks.

For those who are considering purchasing this book for their libraries, I would urge some caution. My Best Everything is not a book I’d recommend to middle grade readers. In fact, I doubt I’d give this book to anyone under age sixteen. There are some complicated, adult situations–and loads of illegal activities–so this is definitely a book for older, more mature teen readers. Do with that what you will.

If you’re interested in learning more about My Best Everything and author Sarah Tomp, check out the author’s website, Twitter, and Goodreads. Enjoy!

Inexcusable

There are several unread books on my shelves that have been there for years.  One of my goals this year (and next year) is to get around to reading some of these books (mainly to make space for even more books).  This week, I decided to take a break from reading Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue (which is awesome…but long) and read one of these sadly neglected books on my shelf–Inexcusable by Chris Lynch.  This book was released in 2005, and I’ve been meaning to read it but never got around to it until now.  It’s a short, fast read that will appeal to reluctant readers, and the subject matter–what can only be called date rape–is a topic that should be explored with any and all teens.

Keir Sarafian is a “good guy.”  Ask anyone.  He doesn’t get into too much trouble.  He’s a great son and brother.  He’d rather cut off his own arm than hurt anyone close to him.  So, it’s absolutely impossible that he could have done what Gigi–the love of his life–is accusing him of.  No.  He absolutely couldn’t have raped her.

As Keir tries to figure out why Gigi is saying these awful things, he reflects back on the past year.  He thinks about the good times and bad, things he could have done differently, mistakes he made, and whether or not he really is a “good guy.”  What could have possibly led him to this point, and what will happen to him now?  Is there any way he can convince Gigi that this is all some huge mistake?  Or is Keir’s biggest mistake believing that he couldn’t do something this horrible?

It becomes clear to the reader pretty quickly that Keir is not the “good guy” he’s built himself up to be in his own mind, but it is interesting to see his thought processes.  What makes someone so delusional that they can’t see what’s right in front of them?  In Keir’s case, I think we can partially blame his father, who sees nothing wrong with getting wasted with his teenage son.  We can also partially blame sports culture.  This idea that athletes are above the law does nothing to help these guys when the you-know-what really hits the fan.  Mostly, though, the blame lies with Keir, who fails to take a long, hard look at his own actions.  It seems he’s always pushing the fault onto someone else’s shoulders.  After all, he’s a “good guy,” and he couldn’t possibly do something really bad.

In my opinion, Inexcusable is a good book for teen readers, especially those who don’t quite understand the true meaning and seriousness of date rape.  Some of the content and language is mature, so I wouldn’t put this book in the hands of middle grade readers.

Another book on this topic that you may want to consider is The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney.  While Inexcusable looks at date rape from the male’s point of view, The Mockingbirds looks at the female perspective and what a girl can do to fight back when something this horrible happens to her.  Of the two of these books, The Mockingbirds is probably my favorite, and I will hopefully find time to read the sequel, The Rivals, soon.