(I received a copy of this book for review through Star Book Tours.)
I've never read any of Lauren Myracle's other books. I'm not much into the whole "txt-spk" thing, so those books have never sparked my interest. Not my cup of tea. Other than those, I couldn't have named another book Myracle had written before today. But this... this book called out to me. Not only because of the absolutely gorgeous cover, but because of the premise, and because it's set in the South. I love me some books set in the South. And because it has Issues. Issues with a capital 'I'.
And boy, did this deliver. If it hadn't been written with such grace and honesty, and a light touch and sense of innocence, it could have gone so very, very badly wrong. The Issues in this book are the kind that outsiders abhor and denounce, while those living in and around and with them are almost oblivious to their existence as an 'Issue' at all. To those people, it's just life. Normal. Everyday. This book touched on a lot of things. Poverty, addiction, class division, alcoholism, abuse, homosexuality and homophobia, fear and hatred, small-town politics, friendship and loyalty, etc. So many things that some could have easily gotten lost and confused. But even with all of these issues entwined throughout the story, I never felt that it forgot what it was.
I loved the way this story was written. I love the way it was parceled out, little by little, edging closer to the truth and the consequences and the brokenness, like a hungry mouse sneaking closer to a crumb not far from the cat's bed. The mouse knows that rushing will cause it to lose its chance, to be hurt -- but caution and stealth may win it a chance to survive. This book was like that. It crept along, building momentum, until it reached where it needed to be.
I instantly fell in love with these characters, especially Cat and Patrick. My heart broke for the things that they lost, both before and after Patrick is beaten and left for dead. I loved their friendship, and the simple acceptance of it. I loved Mama Sweetie, Patrick's Grandma, and her kindness and wisdom and faith. I usually find it hard to accept religion in books, because so very often it comes across as preachy. That was not the case here. It was less religion and more a matter of faith - a simple knowledge that there's something and someone there for us. No judgment, no fire and brimstone, no recriminations for every little thought, just a sense of "If you want, you can - if not, that's OK too." I liked that.
This book is gorgeous and amazing from cover to cover, and I was so wrapped up in this community and these lives that I almost didn't want to see, but I couldn't look away. I found one thing, one little thing, about the very end to be a bit unbelievable, but I understand it, and I wasn't disappointed. All in all, I loved this book and I think it's one that I will need to own, to re-read and absorb and love.
It's that good.