Sydney Stanford is used to being invisible. She feels eclipsed by her charming, gorgeous and fearless brother Peyton. Then Peyton goes to jail for a horrible drunk driving accident and Sydney starts getting all the wrong kind of attention. She transfers high schools, hoping to create a new identity of her own, apart from her brother. Soon she meets Layla Chatham, who instantly and exuberantly welcomes Sydney into her circle. With Sydney’s parents completely absorbed with their wayward son, the Chatham family starts to feel like home. It is their unconditional love and acceptance that helps Sydney deal with her guilt and anger about Peyton’s accident. Gradually, she begins to hope for new and better relationships with her own family — and finds a special relationship with someone who loves her and sees her as she is.
I was completely charmed by the characters in this book! There’s Layla, with her passion for french fries and terrible taste in men; Eric, a self-proclaimed musical visionary; Mrs. Chatham, who refuses to be defined by her illness, and Mac, the ever-watchful big brother with hidden depths. I loved their quirkiness, imperfections and loyalty. My heart went out to Sydney — who idolized her brother but felt trapped in his shadow — and to Sydney’s parents, who refused to see how dysfunctional their family had become.
This book deals with some serious issues with great honesty and compassion. It shows people who are flawed, but who refuse to be defined by their flaws. I love how Sydney learns to see other people’s point of view, and in the process learns about acceptance and forgiveness. It’s a beautifully written story, complete with a slow-growing yet powerful romance … and a great pizza joint!
Rated: Moderate. About 16 mild and moderate swear words, and teens are shown drinking beer and hard liquor. There’s also a very brief scene of a girl getting physically restrained and forcibly kissed.